Nottingham University Football Club (NUFC) is one of the biggest clubs in the University. Drawing on its standard of elite sportsman in one of the most participated sport in the University, the footballing club as a result promotes an extraordinary level of competition throughout the University, with over 450 fresher’s trialing each year. Despite Nottingham being one of the only major universities to not accept Sports Science (or other similar type of sport-affiliated degrees), we excel in this field almost every year.
On the 7th November, our 2nd XI were greeted with a typically crisp afternoon at Highfields Sports Ground, as well as Worcester University’s football team (perhaps not too well a known university, but one which succeeds in its sport). Que sixteen strapping boys at the top of their fitness, wearing the statement NUFC grey jumpers (a distinguishable visual threat on our behalf) and, to up the ante, music blared out of the changing room of which some pre-match favourites, including Drake, Frank Ocean and 50 Cent, were brought into the mix. After a lengthy warm-up, we are alerted by the referee that Kick Off would be in five minutes. We come out ten minutes later, just to ensure that the opposition are on our clock. The mental battles have truly begun.
The captain greets the referee and opposing captain in the center circle for the coin toss, he calls tails, and with winning, chooses to swap sides – mental battle 2-0. The match begins well for Nottingham, a few early chances and some good possession football. However, after a shaky ten minute spell, NUFC have conceded not one but two goals from nothing. A long shot, and a long throw-in that took the defence by surprise, were all that undid them . A rattled NUFC started looking for long balls too early – with statistics saying that the average pass completion was at just 64%, tackles closer to 55% and possession of just 51%. Unusual for Nottingham, who usually control the tempo of their matches.
At half-time the manager, Steve Smith, settled the boys down. He told them to remain focused and to go back to playing their usual type of football – passing, 2 touches and shoot on sight. It worked, a through ball from the captain found the feet of a lightning quick Hugo Docx, who runs on average 100m just short of 11 seconds, who shocked the away side’s defence before finishing coolly. “We’re back!” shouts Jon Hosking as the ball glides into the back of the net, 2-1. The goal spurred the team on, Josh Sumner and Jamie Hiscox marauding around their opposite numbers as if they weren’t there. Matt Hart’s winning of 88% of headers against a 6ft5 centre-back encouraged the Midfield forward. Within minutes the captain found himself at the edge of the box with a yard of space, bending the ball into the top right corner. 2-2. Game, definitely, on.
A few changes took place, where Orlando del Maestro and Josh Sumner came off for Matt Garner and Sean Vierya who had been desperate to get involved in what was now becoming a real battle. Our confidence was continuing to soar; they couldn’t get near us. Chants from drunken Worcester travelling support crowd bore the mantra “Nottingham’s a s***hole, I want to go home”. Their animosity can be understood for they were getting truly battered by Nottingham. 94% of the tackles were being won by Nottingham, and Dom Michel’s and Hosking’s winning 100% of aerial battles in defence made for a panicked Worcester, whose former lead in the game was looking to be quickly usurped; not soon after it was. A delightful right-footed finish from Hiscox was just what Nottingham needed to finish them off.
Yet, whilst Nottingham kept their foot on the gas with full-backs Bar Hariely and Lee Warner continuing to pin the ball back up the pitch, a great run from substitute Jack Lee found Docx who smashed the ball into the post in the 88th minute, but whose rebound found the foot of some Worcester midfielder halfway back up the pitch. With the first touch (in what seemed like thirty minutes) the ball found their striker who put it straight past Alfie Griffith.
Sometimes in sport the better team does not always win, and this Wednesday afternoon proved to be one of those occasions. With the final score of 3-3, it was clear that things were going to need to be discussed at the next training sessions. Yet NUFC’s ambitions of winning the league this season have not been squandered by such a result; if anything, today’s game will drive us through the rest of the season.
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