Morpeth I 3 Durham University III 3 North East Hockey League, Premier Division
Morpeth’s first game of the 2015 saw them host league leaders Durham University III XI, in this highly-anticipated top-of-the-table clash.
The Longhirst-based outfit had the chance to close the gap on the pacesetters and knew in order to do this they would need to hit the ground running.
The home side started brightly, moving the ball around confidently at pace. Fluid movement allowed them to get in behind the opposition defence to create early chances.
Morpeth continued to mount pressure on the Durham goal and came very close to opening the scoring.
Luke Hudson’s powerful reverse-stick hit forced a fine save from the Durham keeper as it was tipped over the bar.
The home side were wary of being hit on the counter-attack and had to demonstrate good organisation at the back to keep the university side at bay.
As the half progressed, Morpeth continued to find space, particularly out wide and used this to good effect.
Eventually, the deadlock was broken, as a ball played in from the left wing was met by forward Ross Valentine. The wiley veteran used his experience to deflect it first time past the unsuspecting keeper (1-0).
Morpeth were deservedly in the lead. However, it wasn’t long before Durham equalised from a penalty-corner.
The initial strike hit defender Phil Holmes on the foot before looping past helpless keeper Luke Dixon (1-1).
Moments after the restart, Morpeth responded with a second. A surging run up the right by Cooper allowed him to play the ball into the D.
Again, Valentine was the man in the right position, but this time he passed it to skipper Brown, who managed to force the ball into the bottom corner beyond a wall of defenders (2-1).
The second half got under way and Morpeth looked to extend their lead.
They continued to press the Durham defence and soon managed to find a third goal.
Brown dispossessed the Durham left-back, then played a neat through-ball to Luke Hudson, who fired it into the bottom right corner on his reverse for 3-1 to the home side, who looked to be in control.
Durham began to enjoy more possession as they looked for a way back into the game.
Again, after winning a short-corner, they managed to score to set up a tense finish (3-2).
Morpeth didn’t panic and were able to create chances on the break. Dixon and Kendall both came close to adding a fourth but were denied by the keeper.
After a very unfortunate defensive slip, the Durham forward pounced on the ball and found himself one-on-one with keeper Dixon.
The defence managed to get back and almost thwart the attack, however, they couldn’t prevent the away side getting an equaliser (3-3).
Morpeth had the chance to win the game right at the end, but Brown’s short-corner effort produced another fine save from the Durham keeper and the opposition cleared their lines.
A very good point for Morpeth, who will be disappointed not to have taken all three, as their performance was certainly deserving of it.
Starting line up: L Dixon (GK), A Dye, R Machin, T Cook, F Cooper, T Carmichael, R Brown (C), D Breakey, J Dixon, I Kendall, L Hudson. Subs: P Holmes, B McPate, R Valentine. Man-of-the-match: Ritchie Brown.