UON Cruelly Beaten By Trent On Penalties In Varsity Finale

UON in action against NTU in the Varsity men's football match
Rhys Thomas

The University of Nottingham suffered a cruel defeat in the final Varsity event of 2023, losing out in the men’s football penalty shootout despite leading going into second half stoppage time. UoN were the better side, in what was not the most attractive game of football, and were unfortunate to have victory snatched away by a last gasp Nottingham Trent equaliser. Rhys Thomas was there for Impact.

Nottingham’s student football sides met once again at Basford United’s flawless synthetic pitch, both sides hoping to finally get a result in their favour this season following draws in both BUCS league matches this season. UoN were led out by skipper Phil Jauch, the third year having been in fine form this season with a couple of goals and five assists to his name. NTU, meanwhile, were captained by Gibson, the side in pink hoping to recreate scenes from 12 months ago when they deservedly beat UoN 2-0 at the same venue.

Mo ‘Bangs’, as he’s known, continued to terrorise the Trent defence in the opening phase of the game

From the whistle, UoN looked up for the fixture, none more so than Mo Bangura down the left hand side who had the Trent left back in all sorts of trouble on multiple occasions. Bangura’s early match exploits knocked any confidence the Trent number three had them and it was hardly surprising that the defender was the first NTU player substituted early in the second half. Mo ‘Bangs’, as he’s known, continued to terrorise the Trent defence in the opening phase of the game and was almost rewarded with an assist when he cut the ball back across the box only for the Trent goalkeeper to pull off a wonderful reaction save to tip the ball around the post. 

Set pieces were the order of the day and UoN nearly struck gold in the 21st minute when Jauch whipped a teasing free kick across the face of goal which evaded everybody and the goal by mere inches. The long throw tactic was deployed regularly throughout the game by both sides. The Green and Gold’s Finn O’Reilly almost caused a goal on the half hour mark from one of his trademark launches, but an NTU defender was on hand to bail out his flapping goalkeeper.

Towards the end of the first half, UoN started to reassert themselves on the game

O’Reilly was defensively excellent too, making numerous critical challenges. No tackle was more important than his goal-saving challenge on a Pink striker who was about to tuck home a cut back from 10 yards. 

Towards the end of the first half, UoN started to reassert themselves on the game. Trent became unsure of themselves, and captain Gibson picked up a yellow card for a poor challenge in the 41st minute. A few moments later, UoN second year Tom Howard powered a header off of the post, unable to add to his one goal this season from centre back. 

Despite the UoN pressure, the sides remained deadlocked at half-time. Impressive routines from the cheer and dance squads during the interval finally gave the crowd something to cheer about in absence of any goals. 

The second half didn’t really pick up where the first left off, devoid of meaningful action until the 63rd minute. Just after the hour mark, Jonny White was on the spot to tap home a rebound after Isaac Stone’s effort was parried by the Trent keeper. There was a question of offside, at least in the Trent players’ eyes, but the goal was given and UoN took the lead they should have attained in the first period.

It seemed as though Trent would go out with a whimper

As the match entered its final quarter, the Green and Gold looked to slow the game down. Bangura and goalkeeper Graham both picked up yellow cards as the referee ran out of patience with perceived timewasting. UoN kept things tight until the regulation 90 minutes were up, and it seemed as though Trent would go out with a whimper. The trailing side did eventually spark into life in added time, with UoN calling upon Graham to pull off a ridiculous diving save to keep his side ahead.

It was, though, heartbreak minutes later, when Trent’s Molineux converted from close range after a scramble in the box following yet another set piece. Deep into (seemingly never-ending) added time, the side in pink had found an equaliser to take the game to penalties.

Both teams reconvened in huddles to decide the order, and the captains again faced the coin toss with the referee to decide who would take first and at which end. As the referee pointed to the far side of the ground, both sets of fans descended towards that end in scenes reminiscent of the final Avengers: Endgame battle, aiming to place themselves behind the goal to maximise distraction opportunities. Despite a few panicked-looking security workers, all remained relatively civil amongst both fanbases.

Each team cooly dispatched their first three spot-kicks into the net, all six players scoring admirably in the face of boos and jeers. The fourth round of kicks was where it all went wrong for UoN, as a tame penalty was stopped by the Trent keeper. Even though Howard did well to convert the pressure penalty to keep UoN in the game, Trent made no mistake in their crowning moment and converted calmly to take the Varsity men’s football title once more.

UON take the series 8.5 point to 6.5, and are Varsity champions for the eleventh time in a row!

That said, all was not lost for UoNFC or the university as a whole. For the former, the players applauded their fans and other club members despite the unfortunate result and can certainly be proud of a gutsy performance. For the wider university community, UoN have once again won the Varsity Series thanks to a crucial women’s basketball win on the same night. That result means UoN take the series 8.5 point to 6.5, and are Varsity champions for the eleventh time in a row!

Rhys Thomas

Featured image courtesy of Rhys Thomas. Permission given to Impact to use. No changes were made to this image. 

In article image 1 courtesy of @uonfc via Instagram. No changes were made to this image.

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