Women’s Football Varsity 2010
30th March 2010
Nottingham University Women’s football club looked to end six long years of Varsity heartache in their match with Nottingham Trent’s representative XI at Notts County’s Meadow Lane ground. Coming off the back of some slightly disrupted but overly successful preparations, they took to the pitch in high spirits, confident that they could indeed overcome their poor previous record and notch up another point for Nottingham University in the series.
In front of a very vocal crowd, the match started explosively and Uni found themselves almost immediately on the back foot after a slow start, when Trent’s Karen Britchford found space on the right and looped a vicious half volley over Nottingham’s goalkeeper Brittany Moerkens, with what later proved to be the best goal of the game. Initially perturbed, the Uni side struggled to find a rhythm in the early stages and were repeatedly pegged back by the attacking Trent side, who occupied the away dugout and stand this season. Gradually, however, after seeing out some impressive route one play, commonly regarded these days as a Trent Uni’s footballing specialty, the NUWFC girls began to see their effortful performance pay some dividends particularly on the flanks, where right winger Hannah Jones was causing a number of problems for the Trent left back.
Their continuing progress was halted, though, when aforementioned goalkeeper Brittany Moerkens was injured in a collision on 25 minutes. Despite receiving treatment from Uni physio Eric Bandoo, which saw Moerkens continue for a further 5 minutes, the pain eventually became too much and substitute keeper Kimberly Bates took to the field. This wasn’t the last unplanned substitution Uni were forced to make, as just 8 minutes later, left back Lauren Murray was deemed unable to play any further part in the match, being replaced by Helena Varley. In spite of these issues Uni finished the half the stronger team, having recovered from the early setback and preventing Trent adding to their lead, confidence was high that they could still take something from the match.
After a fifteen minute interval, during which the men’s teams of both Uni and Trent emerged to inspect the pitch, the sides returned to the field and it was the Trent team who began the half slowly, with Uni launching a number of long and searching balls forward in an attempt to even up the scores early, combined with some neat possession play in the middle of the park. They were rewarded on 52 minutes after a great piece of individual skill by talismanic midfielder Steph Smith saw her cut inside two Trent defenders and smash home a low shot from twenty yards.
With the Trent side reeling, Uni probed for a second, and were almost rewarded when Varley, now playing in left midfield having switched with winger Ellie Sakata had a shot saved by the Trent keeper, only for the rebound to fall to Smith, who’s shot ricocheted back off the crossbar.
Failure to take that chance seemed to deflate the Uni girls and Trent’s long ball style started to look increasingly dangerous against Nottingham’s tiring defence. However, it was from some neat play in the box that Trent were eventually able to carve out an opening for themselves, as a clumsy challenge in the area left the referee no option but to award a penalty. Aileen Whelan stepped up and calmly placed the ball into Bates’ right hand corner, giving her no chance and restoring Trent’s lead.
With Uni behind once again the difficulties of playing on such a poor surface began to tell on both sides, particularly Nottingham who had to make several stoppages for injuries. Trent continued to plug away with their route one tactics and the decisive moment of the match came as a result. Another lofted ball saw Uni goalkeeper Bates’ unable to come and claim ahead of the Trent striker, who rounded her, only for Bates’ to haul her down in the area resulting in a second Trent penalty. The referee had no choice but to show Uni’s ‘keeper a red card, much to the fury of the team’s coaching staff, who were adamant Trent were given the benefit doubt regarding a similar decision in the first half, after striker Anna Mawston was brought down on the edge of the area. Now down to 10 players and without another goalkeeper, Uni were forced to make their final substitution, bringing on makeshift ‘keeper Heather Taylor in replacement of tireless central midfielder Helen King. Trent looked to put the lead beyond Uni from the spot, the penalty was blazed over and the chance went begging, keeping the scores at 2-1. Uni rallied but eventually the benefit of the extra player paid off for Trent, who eventually found the net for a third time through centre-forward and skipper Tara Guyle who calmly slotted past Uni’s third goalkeeper to put the result beyond doubt.
At the final whistle nobody could argue with the result, though Uni’s bench felt some questionable refereeing decisions and unfortunate injuries had cost them dearly, but full credit was commended to their players who’s effort and commitment were unquestionable. Alas though, for another year at least, the women’s football varsity belonged to Nottingham Trent.
Final Score: Uni 1 – 3 Trent