The gap in the 2016 Notts Varsity series has been closed to just two points (8-6) after both NTU’s men and women won their varsity football clashes in a sunny afternoon at Meadow Lane, in very contrasting games.
UoN Women 0-0 NTU Women (NTU won 4-3 on pens)
The first game on Monday evening proved to be a tight clash with both teams scared to put a foot wrong and put their opponents in the ascendancy.
It was Uni of who started the better and could have had the lead after only four minutes. A looping header skimmed the top of the bar after the Trent goalkeeper. That proved to be the only real chance of a cagey start which saw both teams move the ball around well.
Trent had their first real opening just after the 20 minute mark as Wood received the ball 15 yards out but blazed over. She was a thorn in the UoN centre halves side for much of the game and should maybe have done better after getting on the end of a lofted ball.
The striker couldn’t quite get her audacious lob right and it trickled wide of the best to keep the score level.
Our NTU girls began to pile on the pressure and perhaps should have taken the lead after Sophie Mullett was first to the rebound after Hattie Simes had forced the UoN goalie Emily Garland into a decent save, but Mullet could only put her effort wide.
There was then a break in play after one of the UoN girls went down with an injury which allowed the sides to take a breather.
She eventually got back to her feet and following the physio’s assurances, was able to continue.
UoN might have had the lead just before half-time had it not been a tremendous piece of awareness from NTU goalkeeper Amy Mullett. A back pass from a Trent defender almost put UoN clean through on goal until a fantastically timed sliding challenge from Mullett saw off the danger.
That proved to be the final action of the first half with neither team standing out massively. UoN’s midfield slightly edged their Trent counterparts but it was the girls in pink who had the better of the chances.
There was one change for UoN at the start of the second half, with Shannon Swift replacing Georgie Talbot.
Meadow Lane was bathed in sunlight for most of the afternoon and the thousands of Trent fans were in good voice despite the lack of goals on the field of play. The second half proved to be even tighter than the first. 73 minutes went by before the next chance, Newton picked the ball up inside the Uni of half and tried an attempt from distance but it was comfortably saved by the goalkeeper.
That seemed to spark something in Trent which the game had missed in large parts, NTU opened up the opposition defence and Noble could have sent the pink and blue supporters sitting in the away stand (the Jimmy Sirrell Stand) into ecstasy but her effort was just over the bar.
Finally, the ball found the net with only 14 minutes left of normal time. Alyssa Morris beat keeper Mullett but was adjudged to be offside by the linesman.
An injury left Trent’s Gunn on crutches, although is not thought to be too serious after a bad challenge inside the last ten minutes. Hardwick replaced her.
Both teams had very few chances and the game was over following five minutes of added time, the winner would be decided on penalties.
Ana Mihajlovic was first up for UoN, she walked up to the penalty spot and placed the ball down confidently but it was in vain as she skied her effort. Trent’s first attempt was far more successful, Hollingsworth never looked like missing as she finished calmly. Alyssa Morris, who had a goal chalked off in normal time stepped up for Uni of’s second penalty and did what her predecessor couldn’t, she netted to level the shootout.
Three successful penalties then followed, two for the girls in pink and one for UoN making the score 3-2 to NTU. Joanna Loayza was not so lucky. The #15 couldn’t keep her penalty down and it was up to Noble to win it for Trent. She was unsuccessful however, her penalty cannoned back off the bar to give UoN real hope of pulling level in a shootout they’d been trailing in from the word go.
Shannon Swift, who performed very well off the bench in the second half buried hers which left one penalty left. It was Cammy Newton who was the hero, her spot kick cannoned off the underside of the bar and over the line to give Trent victory ahead of the men’s game.
UoN 1-3 NTU
Nottingham Trent scored three wonderful goals to take varsity football bragging rights for the fifth year in a row and the men could not have started any different to their female counterparts.
Premier League referee Kevin Friend got the game underway and it took less than a minute for the lads in pink to send the now full away stand into hysterics.
33 seconds had gone when striker Arel Amu blasted a looping effort over the keeper from the edge of the box after good work down the left. The strike silenced the Uni of fans, who weren’t particularly loud anyway in contrast to their polytechnic opposition.
An almost identical goal made it 2-0 to Trent after Joe Junkovic found space to blast it over Keval Patel, who looked on in despair. Trent were first to every ball for much of the first half, with UoN having very little in terms of possession and attacking forays forward.
It looked as though pacey right winger Reid was about to put Amu in again to make it three late in the second half but Uni of’s Shonde arrived late and was booked for a strong challenge.
The resulting free-kick went well over the bar, but Trent would stretch their lead anyway a few minutes later. After good work by the pair in the centre of midfield, who barely gave a ball away all night. They won the ball back in midfield before sending it out wide to Junkovic, who had the better off his battle with the UoN right back. He played the ball inside to Josh Rae who curled his effort into the far corner just before half-time to make it 3-0.
UoN would need a miracle in the second half after being outplayed completely in the first and while they did improve after the break, it just wasn’t enough.
They began to press better and higher up the pitch and did not allow the NTU players time to settle on the ball like they did in the first half. They didn’t completely stop Trent however and it could have been four but a fine save from Patel denied NTU when one of their attackers was played clean through.
Uni of’s captain Charles Gerson, who was the punchline of many harmless Trent chants throughout the second half, was doing well to spur his side on and put in a number of delightful balls for his team mates but apart from a save of Trent goalie Fernandez-Lewis, they were unable to profit.
It was the 70th minute when UoN finally profited from their hard work. A goal mouth scramble was turned in by Jeremiah Shonde. Despite many attempts to close the deficit, the lads in green shirts just couldn’t find an opening as Trent stood firm.
That was how it ended as ref Friend put his whistle to his mouth to confirm what everyone had known for some time, Trent had won Varsity football and were now only two points behind in the entire series.
VOLLEYBALL IS UP NEXT!