The University of Nottingham (UoN) Women’s Football Team lost to Nottingham Trent University (NTU) on penalties in a dramatic finale to their Varsity match, after the game finished 0-0 in normal time, at Meadow Lane.

To proclaim that football is a game of margins at any level is to indulge in one of the most base of sporting clichés. Whilst often this is merely filler for journalists, for the women’s varsity football match at Meadow Lane, this description could not be more appropriate.

Nottingham Trent University needed to score the final penalty in a best of 5 shootout to clinch the win against their ultimate rivals. In a gruelling encounter which had finished 0-0, the stakes could not have been higher.

Trent’s #8 Cammy Newton stepped up to the penalty spot and slammed the ball against the underside of the bar. It then rebounded onto the goal line before eventually bouncing into the roof of the net. An inch higher and the ball would have careered off the bar, rather like the previous penalty required for victory. As it was, Newton was to be swamped by her Trent teammates not seconds later. Fine margins indeed.

“In a match that lacked a touch of quality in the final third, the passion and effort could not but be admired”

Shootouts have a habit of rendering spectators oblivious to the finer details of a game that has been played out up to the point of victory, or in the unfortunate case of Nottingham’s green and gold, defeat. In a match that lacked a touch of quality in the final third, the passion and effort could not but be admired.

Three players had to be substituted due to injury, which said much about the intensity and spirit the game was played in. Indeed, UoN’s vice captain Lauren Heria (taking over for injured playmaker Elizabeth Ejupi) praised the effort of her team: ‘It summed up a difficult season for us, to lose in this fashion is so disappointing. We gave it our all though and you can’t ask for much more’.

UoN started the stronger, looking more composed and creative in the midfield, while maintaining a fluid backline that allowed for players to go forward without leaving themselves exposed to the counter.

Captain Elizabeta Ejupi showed her class in the centre of midfield for UoN.
Captain Elizabeta Ejupi showed her class in the centre of midfield for UoN.

The first major chance fell to Trent, however, on 30 minutes with a shot-come-cross from Hattie Simes being parried by UoN’s keeper Emily Garland into the path of Sophie Mullett, who shot wide with the goal gaping.

“UoN had a particularly torrid final five minutes, with their captain Ejupi having to be taken off after a nasty head collision”

Though not having the say in midfield, Trent often had the better chances, and were willing to stay solid and try to take advantage of any lapses in concentration made by UoN. On a few occasions, Garland strayed closer to the edge of her penalty box than would be comfortable, which the Trent frontline attempted to exploit.

UoN had to survive a tense moment in the 77th minute when they had to clear the ball off the line after a mix-up at the back. Though UoN made three shots on target, they were all of a good height for Trent’s keeper Amy Mullett to catch comfortably. Good build up play in the midfield often lacked the final incisive pass.

Despite the agonising defeat, the UoN team spirit shone through.
Despite the agonising defeat, the UoN team spirit shone through.

The only time in the match the ball found the back of the net in regular time was a superb finish by UoN’s Alyssa Morris which was cruelly called back for offside, after substitute Shannon Swift had stolen the ball brilliantly.

UoN had a particularly torrid final five minutes, with their captain Ejupi having to be taken off after a nasty head collision in the box with Trent’s Laura O’Neill. UoN’s Garland then made a brilliant save down to her right as Trent nearly managed to squeeze a last gasp winner after a mazy run down the byline.

After a tight, tense, and even game it was the old enemy of English football fans everywhere, the penalty shootout that was to decide the victors. After pulling back a deficit of two it looked perhaps as if UoN may be able to turn it around. Once inch of steel alas, had other ideas.

The defeat took the overall Varsity score to 8-5, before the men’s game following this, as Trent looked to close the gap on UoN to just two points.

The University of Nottingham Women's Football Varsity Team.
The University of Nottingham Women’s Football Varsity Team.

University of Nottingham Team Roster:

Emily Garland (GK)

Victoria Troccoli (GK)

Chrystal Lewis (GK)

Ana Mihajlovic

Lauren Heria

Joanna Loayza

Mariah Cameron

Ronnie Hendra

Elizabeta Ejupi

Sabrina Mullings

Maire Gilmartin

Natalie Flanagan

Ellen Salter

Ellie Readman

Georgie Talbot

Alyssa Morris

Shannon Swift

Words by Stephen Kenny

Images: IMPACT Images Team

Follow @ImpactVarsity16 for more updates and live tweets on the 2016 Varsity Series.

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