Northumberland County Schools U18’s kept their Northern Counties unbeaten record intact and qualified for the semi-finals after a 2-2 draw against local rivals Durham.
The game started at a competitive pace and Northumberland broke the deadlock after only four minutes when a terrific corner from Tom Potter (Whitley Bay), was met by the powerful run of skipper Jack Byerley (St Thomas More) who headed past the Durham goalkeeper.
Durham fought back and were twice denied by goalkeeper Callum Straker (Tyne Met) who touched goal-bound shots past the post and then over the bar, but a fine individual run and unstoppable shot from Nathan Watt (Gateshead College) saw Durham equalise on the half hour mark. Only five minutes later Northumberland restored their advantage after another excellent corner, this time from Luke Balmer (RGS), found Paul Dunn (TyneMet) who smashed home the ball from close range to send Northumberland in 2-1 leaders at the break.
Ten minutes into the second period Durham equalised from a penalty kick by Andrew White (Darlington College) and as both teams battled even harder to gain the upper hand, Northumberland were reduced to ten men when a second yellow card led to a sending off. After that, the ten men organised themselves well to ensure the game was defensively tight and opportunities for Durham were restricted for the game to finish 2-2.
Durham finish top of the East League, guaranteeing a home draw in the Northern Counties’ Championship Semis, while Northumberland must travel to King’s School, Chester, on Saturday, March 8, to face Cheshire.
Northumberland team manager Mark McCutcheon said: “The players showed a lot of determination in this game to ensure they remained unbeaten in this competition and to progress into the semi-finals.
“They can learn from this game to ensure they are even better in the next.”