Derby’s Head of Futsal, Matt Hardy, was absolutely delighted with his side’s opening day performance, following his side’s hard fought 4-3 victory over Durham Palatinates to kick off the new FA National Futsal Series yesterday afternoon.
An own goal and strikes from Sam Huntingdon – the 80th of his Derby career – captain Michael Thorpe and Dylan Harris-Newton handed DFC a first opening day win since 2014 and an important victory against a strong Durham side, which included England international Robbie Bettson.
“We’re absolutely delighted with the result and the character we had to show to get that result. Speaking to some of the other clubs, I’m not sure everyone understood Durham’s quality beforehand, but knowing Chris (Sewell, the Palatinates Head Coach) as well as Sam (Huntingdon) and I do, as well as the obvious qualities that a player like Robbie brings to them, we knew we’d have to dig deep to get the three points and prepared as such.
Derby showed a defensive resilience that left their management delighted, grabbing the lead early in the game and then protecting that with a dogged and determined performance against the hosts at Durham University’s new Sport & Wellbeing Park.
“It was tough playing that way, but after a two and a half hour drive to get here and knowing we have the same awaiting us now on the journey home, we knew we needed to be professional about our approach and ensure we got the result.”
“Once we had that early lead, we felt comfortable defending it and being smart in the way we used our energy. We were happy to let them have the ball, especially on the smaller court and concentrate on blocking them out in the key areas, which I think for the large part, we did incredibly well.”
“I always felt like we had that bit extra to go and get that extra goal where we needed it, which ultimately was how the game turned out.”
When Durham did break through they were thwarted by the excellent Rich Hankey in Derby’s goal, whose man of the match performance, as voted by his teammates, showed, in Hardy’s opinion, his qualities and experience at this level.
“It was inevitable that on the opening day of the season, playing the way we felt we had to play, a side of Durham’s quality would get chances but in Rich we have a goalkeeper who we know we can depend on always and that’s such a bonus for any team at any level, but especially competing where we want to compete.”
“He’s working incredibly hard on and off the court to improve his game, his fitness levels and his flexibility and I’m pleased for him that the boys are recognising that and his importance to us, not just as a keeper but as a leader on court as well.
“Hopefully he won’t get too many opportunities to win man of the match, because ultimately that’s not how we want to play, but having him there and on form when we need to call on him is huge for us.”
Derby’s next NFS fixture is against Loughborough Development in Loughborough on Sunday 19th October. They’ll play BUCS side University of Warwick in Coventry in a friendly as part of the preparation for that fixture next Sunday.