A light but constant mist of rain greeted Nottingham University Men’s Football team onto the pitch at Meadow Lane. The bright sky that slowly turned dark and cold in Nottingham unfortunately foreshadowed the events that were to unfold in Men’s Varsity. The 3-1 win by Trent was somewhat drowned out by Nottingham University winning the whole Varsity series 30 minutes prior to kick-off, but it turned out to be a bittersweet night for the Midlands 1A champions.
A positive start from Trent that saw spells of prolonged possession and pressure for them, which included a goal line scramble in the first 15 minutes, ended in a goal for Nottingham University against the run of play. A powerfully-struck shot from 25 yards out by Jake Furman was too hot to handle for Trent’s goalkeeper, who spilled the ball into the grateful path of Chris Plummer; Plummer made no mistake of tapping in from 3 yards in the 23rd minute. This goal allowed Nottingham to grow into the match and unsettle Trent who had been very comfortable up until then. Jake Furman, Michael O’Neill and Stevan Popovic were the University players who looked the most comfortable at this stage, breaking down most of the Trent attacks and starting to dictate the pace of the game by bringing their fellow teammates into the match. Nottingham were starting to develop a rhythm in the middle, with a few nice touches from Toby Levy, Tom Giddings, Alex Haynes and Hugo Sikuade. However, they failed to capitalise on their increase in possession and Trent were duly rewarded with a well-constructed move that was dispatched by the head of their number 9 one minute before the break. A throw-in from the left, deep in Uni’s half, was crossed in viciously to the near post, and the flick-on by Trent’s striker flew past Amos Teshuva into the far side of the net. The goal was a dagger in the heart for all of Nottingham University, as the sides went into the changing rooms at half-time in front of an eerily quiet Derek Pavis Stand that now seated over 1000 stunned students.
The teams came out with enthusiasm after the interval, and the 2nd half saw both teams, with fatigued legs, slug it out. Alex Haynes, carrying a previous injury, was subbed off for Marko Popovic, a player who immediately increased the pace of the game with his incisive passing and solid tackling. The first 10 minutes of the 2nd half were scrappy to say the least, but the rest of the half was relatively uneventful, with a Trent defender tackling his own goalkeeper providing a rare highlight.
Unsurprisingly, the game went into extra time as neither team could land that knock-out blow in 90 minutes. It was evident from the last 5 minutes of regular time that players from both sides accepted the fact that this event was to mirror last years Varsity and be decided by another 30 minutes of play and possibility penalties. The prospect of penalties seemed to spur Trent on and, after gathering themselves very well in the 5 minute break, they counter-attacked with a long-range give-and-go, which was lethally buried into the back of Amos Teshuva’s net. In the 4th minute of extra time, a lofted through ball by Trent’s substitute number 9 down the right wing was beautifully curled in just in front of the defenders. The ball was agonisingly close to the outstretched feet of O’Neill and Stevan Popovic, but the Trent number 9 continued his run to finish off the move that he started. This seemed to typify Nottingham Trent during the match; in the final third they had a cutting-edge that Nottingham University regrettably lacked.
It was just not to be for Nottingham, who fought well and kept trying to play football. Despite the best efforts of Marko Popovic and Furman, who worked tirelessly and was justly voted the Man of the Match, the scrappy 10 minutes that followed Trent’s 2nd goal forced Uni to adopt a 2-3-5 for the last few minutes of extra time. The chances were there for Nottingham University to level and with a little more composure and luck on the day, the result could have been very different. Nonetheless, the chances came and went and, after Amos Teshuva came up for a last-minute free-kick into Trent’s box, the leading side closed the game out with a long range punt from 70 yards out. Needless to say, Trent’s third goal sealed the game with only 1 minute left to play; their fans jubilant, Uni’s fans dejected. The ref blew the whistle to signal the end of what was a brilliantly entertaining match. Uni players fell to the ground, battered and bruised, after giving all they had for 120 minutes of well-fought football. So, it wasn’t Uni’s day this year, but the team can rest assured that they did themselves no injustice, and were rewarded earlier in the year with promotion to the BUCS Premier division.
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