As one of the curtain raisers on Nottingham Varsity 2017, the University of Nottingham (UoN) Futsal team are looking forward to a close, exciting all-action game. In the build up to the match on Monday 27th March, we spoke to UoN Futsal president, Sam McGrath, about how the teams are preparing and feeling going into the game.

BUCS form

UoN Futsal have had mixed fortunes this year. Whilst the men’s first team have won their league, the other men’s teams have all endured lower-mid table finishes, and both the men’s first and men’s second teams suffered early exits in the BUCS (British Universities and Colleges Sport) Cup. On the eve of Varsity, this form could be a cause for concern.

“It’s not going to something that will affect our preparation for the match,” Sam commented on the matter. “The first team had very good BUCS league season, only losing one match. The rest of the teams are mostly made up of people who joined this year, as we had a huge influx of players this year, making it a transition year really outside of the firsts. The guys are confident that we can bounce back from that Edinburgh game too so we aim for another strong performance.”

As for the women’s teams, both the firsts and seconds achieved a second place in their respective divisions, and with all University of Nottingham teams finishing above teams from Nottingham Trent University (NTU), meaning if all goes according to the form guides, this should be a victory for the Green and Gold.

“Futsal have had mixed fortunes this year. Whilst the men’s first team have won their league, the other men’s teams have all endured lower-mid table finishes and both men’s first and men’s second teams suffered early exits in the BUCS cup.”

“The fact we’ve now had a few really tight games in a row has given us that reputation as one of the closest games in the whole of Varsity.”

Lessons from past clashes

Last year’s Varsity futsal was full of drama. It was 6-6 at the end of full-time, the game went to penalties, which the University of Nottingham won, with McGrath and co. subsequently clinched the Varsity Series overall for UoN. In 2015 however, Trent won another close game 6-5.

“I think it’s going to be another all-action game,” said Sam. “Trent are in the division above us, but the way we’ve been playing this season, there’s no reason we can’t win.

“It looks like it’s going to another really close match again. The fact we’ve now had a few really tight games in a row has given us that reputation as one of the closest games in the whole of Varsity.”

“We also know it’s one of the biggest games of the year for us, and because our first teams haven’t played each other, same as it was last year, it feels very much like a BUCS final to us. This week in training we aim just to step up our game for this match.”

Meanwhile, the University of Nottingham Women’s futsal team will be keen to avenge the 4-3 defeat last year to Trent, and replicate the sort of performance shown in the 2015 victory that saw the Green and Gold run out 11-2 winners.

The David Ross curtain raiser

Whilst the David Ross Sports Village has already hosted previous tournaments, futsal will be the third event of this year’s Varsity Series, after Rugby League and Volleyball action over the weekend, and it is expected to be a grand occasion.

This will be the first time a Varsity futsal game has been played at David Ross; while last year’s attendance was over 400, this year it expected the games could see nearly 800 spectators, making it one of the bigger events in the Varsity calendar. When asked if playing so early in Varsity and so soon after the end of the season was going to impact the play, Sam smiled and commented:

“It’s at a good time for us at the end of the season, as we’re still in that mind-set for training every week. As for it being a curtain raiser, we’re loving it, as it’s going to be a huge event for futsal. I think the atmosphere and home crowd advantage should give us that extra edge, even though last year’s atmosphere was brilliant so we can feed off of that again.

“We haven’t played much in David Ross so it’ll be an interesting experience too, but we know Trent’s fans are going to be vocal so it’ll be something else that we haven’t really experienced before.”

“Sam acknowledged that the team would need to adapt in certain areas for the match, but the overall idea remains to stick to the game plan that has been so successful this year in BUCS to get results.”

Last year’s win on penalties saw UoN Men’s Futsal clinch the Varsity 2016 series for UoN, will there be similar scenes of jubilation this year?

Eyeing up the opposition

In this season’s BUCS, Trent have found much success through their futsal teams (a total of 222 BUCS points), with all their men’s teams coming in the top two of each of their divisions.

When asked if the impressive form of the opposition was a cause for concern, Sam acknowledged that the team would need to adapt in certain areas for the match, but the overall idea remains to stick to the game plan that has been so successful this year in BUCS to get results.

“We know Trent’s first team keeper,” Sam added, “as he’s trained a couple of times with us this year, so we know what standard Trent are at and it should prove to be a really close solid game.”

As previously mentioned, all three of Trent’s women’s teams have finished below their green and gold counterparts, finishing in mid-table or bottom of the league in the case of the thirds. Yet with bragging rights on the line, the women’s team are aware that Trent’s women could raise their game for this season as they seek to retain their title.

With such a mouth-wateringly close game to help kick Varsity off, a win here could set a marker down for the University of Nottingham, as they go on to defend their title once again in the 2017 series.

Jeremy Dunn

Image courtesy of University of Nottingham Sport

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