After some mixed results in pre-season Sacriston faced a tough test on the opening day against a Durham County side who recently won the Bobby Robson cup and are looking to compete for the league title this year.
The fixture marked the first competitive game for new manager Michael Finch and he had a strong squad at his disposal, including a few old faces who’d returned for the new season. One of those in particular will strike fear into defenders up and down the league after a few years away from the game, but enough about Aaron White, it’s also good to have Sam Renwick back up top.
Like a young Maurizo Sarri, with tab in hand, Finch selected a 4-3-3 formation and dished out the pre match instructions before the game got underway after a minutes applause.
Sacriston, sporting their royal blue outfit, started the stronger team and created a few good openings in the first 15 minutes but couldn’t quite click in the final third. Against the run of play it was County who had the first major chance on 20 minutes when Tom’s back-pass was expertly intercepted by the onrushing striker, who proceeded to round the keeper but missed the open goal thanks to a heroic last ditch recovery from the Sacriston full back.
The home side were then presented with a good opportunity from a freekick outside the box and not so young pup Jockey Wilson nearly opened his account with a good curling strike that the keeper tipped round for a corner. From the subsequent corner, Jockey whipped it in towards the near post and Winter lost his marker to nod home, a deserved lead for the bluebirds.
Another 10 minutes or so went by before Sacriston produced the goal of the game with a fast flowing attacking move in which Luke, Winter and Sam rolled back the years with some excellent link up player, culminating in a low drilled first time cross from Winter which Sam slid home for 2-0.
Sacriston continued to look lively with the front four linking up well supported by skipper Ben and debutant Lewis who were putting in a great shift in midfield and very soon after getting the second Sacriston made it 3.
An in-swinging corner was again met by Winter who this time flicked it on towards the onrushing Aaron David Chalky White who nearly broke the net with a sweetly struck left foot volley. With 2 goals in 2 games the no-nonsense centre half is in the form of his life and will no doubt be throwing his name in the hat to unleash one of his infamous knucklechalk freekicks in the next game.
With 5 minutes to play in the half County started to pile on the pressure and were denied on a couple of occasions by some good goalkeeping from Mat. Unfortunately minutes before half time a soft penalty was awarded to County and their striker tucked it home nicely for 3-1.
Half time came soon after, much to the relief of Ben who had returned to Angry Ben and was on the brink of a sin bin due to some very questionable decisions from the ref. Sacriston made one change at the half with another debutant Curtis coming on for Rooney who had linked up well with Sam, Luke and Winter in the first half.
Sacriston played a little deeper in the second half and offered less as an attacking outfit than in the first but were looking relatively comfortable at the back until about 10 minutes into the half when following a goal mouth scramble County looped a header over Mat only for Dean to heroically clear off the line with his head to save a certain goal. A great clearance from an ever present in the Segga defense over the past decade.
Sacriston then made a couple of changes with Ben and goalscorer Chalky being replaced by Gary Draper and Grant with half an hour to play.
With 25 minutes on the clock County made it 3-2 when a long ball was flicked on to the striker who tussled with Draper and proceeded to go one and one and finish low past the keeper, with the referee waving away Sacriston’s appeals for a foul on Draper.
A tense final 20 was in store and Sacriston then made another change with Sam being replaced by another debutant in Oliver up top. This change was much to the relief of the County defense who had been hounded by Sam all morning, an excellent performance from the Secret PT whose return to the team also provides healthy competition for Mordue, Dean and the Drapers as Sacriston’s biggest hunk.
County started to put the pressure on and could have pulled level had it not been for some excellent saves from Mat between the sticks, including a great diving save from a freekick. But it was Sacriston who put the game to bed 10 minutes from time following some good work from Luke on the left who placed a deep cross over to Winter, who controlled, skinned the final defender and finished low past the keeper.
County continued to push over the last 10 minutes but the defense and midfield continued to battle and hold strong. Sacriston could have made it 5 but Luke couldn’t quite sort his feet with a great chance, something Segga’s chief finesman later fined himself for. With minutes on the clock Finch made a tactical master stroke and brought on fans favourite Sonni Armstrong who shored up the back line until the full time whistle, an assured cameo from the blonde bombshell.
The victory is one of the best the club have had in the league for a number of years and it’s a huge 3 points for Sacriston, who have typically struggled to get results in the premier league and ended their pre-season poorly.
It was a great performance by all, one that onlooking club legend Gav Richardson would have been proud of. Man of the match went to Sam who worked tirelessly, got his goal and gave us a completely different option upfront. Winter could count himself a little unlucky not to get it having got two goals and two assists on his return to the club, with Luke and Mat also putting in stand out performances.
Onwards and upwards for Michael’s men, who return to action in a couple of weeks with a cup game against Fram.