Durham United and Sigma Academy shared the points Friday in an exciting 2-2 draw in Pickering.
The game kicked-off forty-five minutes late due to torrential rainfall and lightning that lasted up until five minutes before the scheduled start. The quality of the game made it worth the wait.
The condition of the pitch affected tactics in the early going with both sides choosing to play longer balls focused on the flanks. It made for a fast, back-and-forth, pace.
Instrumental to Durham's attack early was Taylor Lord. The midfielder, who both resembles and plays similar to Michael Bradley, was everywhere. His tenacious play was frustrating Sigma's attack and getting forward effectively.
It was Lord who started the play that lead to Durham's breakthrough goal with a smart tackle in the defensive end. That was followed up by a quick ball up to the midfield, then a short run down the flank by Kyle Crichton. Crichton played it to David James who blasted it home from the top of the eighteen.
The goal came in the eleventh minute and started a twenty-three minute run of dominance by Durham.
But, Sigma has too much skill to be held at bay for long. Against the run of play, off a quick counter, Jordan Stoddart lobbed a pass into Emery Welshman. The former MLSer took the pass on a one-touch volley that met the mark and stunned the home team.
It was one of the goals of the season thus far and it ensured the teams would be even at the break.
Durham didn't hang its head. The team came out firing to start the second half and had Sigma on its back foot from the re-start.
Once again it was Lord that was driving the bus, so it was fitting that it would be him who got the go-ahead goal. Just four minutes into the second half Jordan Dover got a ball into the box that Lord found in space. His run was the hard part. The finish from twelve yards expected.
It was here that an already good game turned into a classic end-to-end battle. Both Sigma and Durham played an open game with the pitch conditions having improved to the point that more possession was possible.
As the half continued Sigma's possession abilities started to swing the play in their favour. Able to control more of the midfield, Sigma started to gain more chances. In the seventy-eighth minute they capitalized.
Alex Halis picked up a loose ball and ran fifteen yards straight at the Durham defence. With a quick inside move he found the space to pick the far right corner of the goal and tie the game.
Both sides created chances in the game's dying minutes, but the 2-2 score line held. It was likely a fair result in a game that showcased Durham's great team spirit and cohesiveness and Sigma's technical skill and individual star power.