7 goals, 3 penalties and a red, is this FIFA? No, it’s UCFB Thirds vs Westminster University Cup game
By Matthew Olsen.
UCFB Thirds were victorious against Westminster University 4-3 in the ALDI Men’s South-eastern Conference Trophy, Round of 16. Wednesdays Cup action offered up one of the games of the season, a game that saw seven goals, three penalties and a red card at Silver Jubilee Park on the 23rd of November.
Both teams looked prepared, focussed and full of intent as they got into their positions for the start of the game. Sam Donachie opened the action early receiving the ball on the edge of the box, gliding and weaving in-between defenders. Nathan Ivil got a vital foot in taking Donachie down on the edge of the box in the 2nd minute. Little did Westminster know that this vital tackle would come back to haunt them, Reece Sullivan stepped up to take the free kick and he struck a powerful dipping shot which flew over the wall and into the top right corner earning an early lead for UCFB.
In the 20th minute, a pacey Phil Jones powering past three players gained UCFB a chance to extend the lead when his leg was clipped in the penalty area. Jack Stockwell stepped up for his club, approaching the penalty spot confidently. Stockwell drove this top left corner sending the keeper the wrong way, kissing his wrist in celebration.
UCFB were pilling on the pressure. Braydon Page received the ball from a throw-in, he touched it down and hit it forward under pressure. Donnachie’s physical presence has the power and speed to beat two Westminster defenders to the ball; playing it across the box to Billy Hathway’s feet. Hathway then deftly cut in on his right foot striking the ball so cleanly, the crossbar rattled for what seemed an age. With only 27 minutes on the clock, it looked like Westminster were in for a very long afternoon.
That was until Zeki Zai tucked his shot bottom left corner in the 29th minute after some great build up play from Westminster. Pemi Yakubu received the ball by the corner flag pushing the ball into space past a defender, crossing this to goal scorer Zeki’s feet- the goalkeeper was caught in no-man’s land.
In the closing ends of the first half, Westminster seemed to have their confidence boosted from the goal they scored and were playing some beautiful triangular pass football which seemed to split UCFB’s defence. Georgio West received the ball and ran towards the gap where he was taken out by Alex Shepherd in the 41st minute, earning Westminster a freekick on the edge of the box. West, with a short run up, shot with power and finesse but this just grazed the top of the net, the score remained 2-1.
UCFB earnt a freekick on the edge of their box in the 42nd minute, Jones thumped this up field clearing the whole pitch, finding Connor Wagner sprinting into Westminster’s box. Wagner let this bounce heading it first time over the keeper who he then collided with, Wagner was watching the goal line like a hawk but after a brilliant piece of defending from Ivil, this was cleared off the line.
The halftime whistle was blown with the score poised at 2-1, this was still anyone’s game and both teams would come out fighting in the second half to pinch a result.
UCFB were close to extending their lead early into the second half with some great fast paced build up play between Cameron Marshall, Ben Daly and Hathway. Daly played Marshall through who made an overlapping run from his left back position. The ball was driven low into a box full of players but no one could get on to the end of it. Westminster came close to scoring too in the 57th minute when Pemi was played through on goal minutes after UCFB’s chance, his shot was blocked and went out for a corner.
Westminster didn’t give up the fight, this paid off after a long throw-in into UCFB’s box was dealt with unorthodoxly and Pemi, who has been the biggest threat to UCFB’s defence, was pushed to the ground, resulting in a penalty for Westminster in the 60th minute. Rightfully deserved, Pemi stepped up to take the penalty, taking a slow run up that put the keeper off sending him the wrong way as he placed this top left equalising for Westminster.
UCFB had to pick up the pace and did, after a poor pass from Westminster’s defender Amin Atel in the 65th minute, Daly intercepted and passed to Wagner who forced a foul in a dangerous position. Sullivan teed up the freekick shooting with power but not much placement as this was straight at Westminster’s goalkeeper, Isaac Jackson who dropped it into the path of Hathway. Hathway headed this chance goalward but this was pushed out for a corner.
Hathway took the in-swinging corner which landed right on the head of Sullivan, Westminster defender Louie Wheeler attempted to stop this crossing the line, heading it away, but this wasn’t enough. Sullivan earnt himself a brace, making it 3-2 to UCFB, with all of their goals coming from set pieces.
The game started boiling over due to the passion and pride of both teams and in the 70th minute a huge commotion broke out after a dangerous scissor challenge from Marshall didn’t sit right with Westminster’s Victor Eze who was livid and pulled Marshall up from the floor before pushing him up against the barrier. This resulted in him having to leave the game early being red carded while Marshall was let off with just a yellow.
Westminster tried to not let this get to them as they understood the importance of this knockout game. In the end persistency worked out for Westminster when Zeki intercepted a poor throw by UCFB in the 81st minute. He drove forward into the penalty area where he went to ground. The referee seemed to give arguably a very questionable looking penalty. Pemi stepped up once again to take the third penalty of the game, this time goalkeeper Jack Craske did dive the correct way but it still wasn’t enough to stop the ball from finding the top right corner, equalising at 3-3.
Just two minutes after the penalty, Westminster looked to take the lead when an out swinging corner found Westminster’s Ivil on the edge of the box, he drilled this low and hard first time aiming for the bottom left corner. Craske made an unbelievable save when it mattered most, keeping his team in the game with minutes remaining.
The last five minutes was end to end, both teams were taking turns to get themselves the winning goal. Donachie was hoping to do this as a counter attacking chance arose and he was played one on one with the keeper, the pressure must have got to him as he lifted this just over the bar in the 88th minute.
When the game looked over for the ninety, Marshall redeemed his yellow card incident. He took the ball on the half way line and spread it into the penalty area where poacher Wagner was lurking. He beat both defenders marking him and headed a glorious goal, putting it past the keeper as it stroked his fingertips. Wagner made it 4-3 finally getting his team that winning goal they desired in a highly intense end to end game.
UCFB Captain and Man of the Match, Connor Wagner was asked what was going through his head when the ball was coming down, scoring in the 95th minute to win them the game? He replied “It’s more of an instant reaction, as a striker I think many people know when you get that chance you’ve really got to put that away. I think as much praise I’m going to get today, I don’t feel like I deserve it when my aim is to score goals, and I do this”
Unfortunately for Westminster University, they have now been knocked out of the Cup. They will pick themselves back up and go again in the league. The victorious UCFB Thirds will go on to the quarter finals where their opponent hasn’t yet been decided. Whoever they face, they will bring a fight trying to get as far into the competition as they possibly can.