DURHAM County Schools U18s are going to the national schoolboys final after hanging on to a nail-biting semi-final victory against a powerful Stafford Town in the West Midlands.

The difficult away trip tested the North-East side to the limit but they edged through 2-1 and will now meet Essex in final of the ESFA National Trophy.

Durham manager Rob Hope said: “The final is usually held at a big league ground and the likes of Liverpool, West Ham, Nottingham Forest and Birmingham City have hosted it in the past.

“We’ll have our hands full because Essex beat Hampshire 5-1 in the other semi-final but for the moment we’re just glad to have overcome a really good Stafford side.”

The semi-final last weekend was a tense affair with both sides knowing what was at stake.

The deadlock was not broken until the 75th minute of the game when Jay Redman’s corner was met by Adam Little whose powerful header cannoned off the crossbar and was followed up by Dan Mitchell, heading home through a crowd of defenders.

The confidence Durham took from the goal was obvious and minutes later the tireless Redman played in Maddison who showed great composure to wrong-foot his opponent and finish past stranded England Under 18 keeper Aidan Stone.

Stafford refused to give up and a powerful header pulled them back into the game as they piled on the pressure at the death.

But Durham withstood all that was thrown at them in an anxious five-minutes time added on and saw themselves through to the national final, the date for which is still being arranged.

Elated goalkeeper Kieran Stoker of Sunderland admitted: “Everyone is really looking forward to the final now,” while scorer of the winning goal, Dan Maddison of Hebburn said. “This was a massive team performance, a great win and it gives us confidence now that we can go all the way and win it.”