The Uni team held their nerve to win a tense penalty shoot-out after a stunning late comeback from Trent tied the game at two goals apiece. With the spoils seemingly heading to the Trent side, a vital save from Uni keeper Danny Crowther swung the momentum of the shoot-out back in Uni’s favour and they secured the victory in sudden death.
A fast-paced, high quality game in fact started off rather tentatively, with both sides content to keep possession and not make silly mistakes. The first opportunities fell to Uni but two penalty corners were squandered due to a combination of slack set-up and good defending.
The rain which had fallen heavily in the early stages died down by the twenty minute mark and the game started to open up, although a number of slips in promising positions cost both teams good shooting opportunities. As the half-time whistle sounded, the respective managers emphasised patience and organisation – it already seemed like the game could be settled by a mistake or a moment of magic. Whether by luck or design, the DJ’s selection of ‘Galvanise’ by the Chemical Brothers seemed fitting.
The second half started in a similar manner to the first, as Uni failed to convert another short corner following the first green card of the game for a trip by the Trent defender. However, with fifteen minutes gone of the half Uni took the lead, as Ben James converted from the spot after a Trent foul in the circle.
This was followed by a sustained period of Uni pressure, with Trent failing to move beyond the halfway line and defending for their lives as Uni were awarded yet another series of short corners. Just as it seemed like they might have wasted their chance, cult hero Shiv Kapoor was able to lift the ball over the onrushing Trent goalkeeper, after a free-flowing move in midfield, to double his teams lead.
With captain Andrew Sutherland imperious in the centre of the field, the game seemed over and both sides fitness levels dropped, leading to a yellow card for both sides as tackles became increasingly badly-timed. But just as supporters started to file away, Trent threw themselves a lifeline with a goal from distance, and followed this up by substituting their keeper for a kicking back – a final throw of the dice.
With mere minutes to go, the Uni defence were able to hold the mounting Trent attacks at bay until a perfect short corner routine led to the dreaded equalizer, scored by Drew Burkin. The Trent players ran over to their jubilant fans, who celebrated in turn by throwing beer everywhere.
However, these celebrations were premature as the final whistle sounded, bringing the game to its conclusion – the penalty shootout. The first three flicks left the respective keepers with little chance, until the Trent stopper pulled off a fine stop to deny the second Uni penalty-taker. The next two penalties were scored, which gave Trent a chance to go 4-2 up and take dominant position. The giant figure of Uni goalkeeper Danny Crowther had other ideas, however, and dived low to his right to peg back the opposition. A tangible shift in momentum could be felt and from this moment on, there was to be only one winner. As the shoot-out moved into sudden death, the Trent penalty-taker agonisingly struck the post and sent the euphoric Uni fans into raptures, as they ran on the pitch to congratulate their team.
Uni goalscorer and forward Ben James told Impact, ”I’m a fresher and it’s just a brilliant feeling to win Varsity, especially for all the lads that are leaving. It’s a great way to end the season. We worked really hard for this and we deserved our victory. Winning on flicks is a nice way to do it.”