A superb performance from striker Chris Plummer proved to be the difference as the University of Nottingham men’s football team secured a vital Varsity point, overcoming Trent in a gripping 2-1 victory after extra-time.
On a cold night at Meadow Lane in front of hundreds of fans from both universities, UoN went into the match without last year’s penalty hero Pat Simpson, but were quickly on the front foot as Trent struggled to cope with their quick and incisive passing and were forced in resorting to long-ball tactics from early on.
It was Plummer who would prove to be the catalyst for all of UoN’s play when going forward however, revelling in the lone striker role as he superbly held up the ball while his speed proved to be a constant headache for the Trent centre-halves.
Against the run of play however it was Trent who carved the first good opportunity as a well-worked corner brought a double-save from keeper Amos Teshuva. This would ultimately be the wake-up call for UoN as they brought the ball up the other end of the pitch. Tom Allnutt was the provider, playing a delightful through-ball to Plummer who cooly slotted in from a tight angle sparking mad celebrations from UoN’s set of fans.
The second half began in a more subdued manner as UoN were happy to soak up Trent’s increased pressure in midfield and allow them to once again resort to long balls. The introduction of Chisanga Nshindano however proved to open up their play as they threw three players up front in search of the equaliser. Nshindano sent a thumping header against the crossbar and was clearly having an unsettling effect on the UoN defence. Minutes later Trent found the equaliser as centre-half O’Laughlin leapt the highest to nod in a corner with five minutes left on the clock.
In a parallel to the women’s match, UoN tried to steal a winner in the dying seconds of regular time as Plummer played through Jake Furman who wasted a glorious opportunity to win the game, steering his shot wide.
When Trent look into the reasons for their defeat however they won’t have to look far beyond themselves as a rush of blood to the head from one of their own players after the referee’s whistle reduced them to ten men for the duration of extra time. With the whistle to signal the end of ninety minutes sounded and players heading towards the dug-out, a Trent player targeted a pitch invader from the UoN stand, throwing a water bottle at him and leaving the referee little choice but to send him for an early bath.
Extra time began with a succession of cramps for both teams as they struggled to cope with the rigours of an extra thirty minutes of football. This would not hinder the ever-lively Plummer however, who’s through ball split the Trent defence to find Furman, who made no mistake the second time around as he lashed his shot into the corner and give UoN the lead they ultimately deserved. The goal epitomised the quick passing and intelligent running from midfield UoN had done so well during the game and everything Trent had lacked.
Substitute Stephen Phillips went on to crash a shot against the post as Trent failed to find answers to UoN’s sustained pressure, failing to carve out clear chances as the clock ran down until the final whistle that signalled mass celebrations from a side that had comprehensively outplayed their opponents to record consecutive Varsity wins and give UoN another vital point in their quest to reclaim overall Varsity Series dominance.
Statistics Courtesy of Phil Bowyer