All past and present members of Univ, their families and friends were invited to join us for the annual Univ Old Members' Football Day on Saturday 12th March 2016 at University College Sports Ground.
Sean Ogilvie (2011) has kindly provided this match report:
As the most recent crop of Univ graduates, the Ogilvie XI (2011) entered their first Old Members Day alongside the New Reds (2006) and the current JCR team in the Group of Death. Having watched the New Reds triumph 1-0 against the double-promotion-winning JCR team, the newly-formed Greens took the pitch well aware of the task ahead. The newcomers were controlling the centre of the park with Cheston, Bridges and Smith strong in the midfield battle but the Greens lacked the final ball to capitalise on their efforts. Firth and Crossley formed a solid and skilled partnership at centre back and volunteer-goalkeeper Lewis distributed well and proved to be a safe pair of hands too. Despite this promise the Greens were cruelly punished as Univ debutant Payne saw the ball bounce onto his hand in his own penalty area. The penalty taker stepped up gave the New Reds the lead. Another goal midway through the second half left the Greens with too much to do but there was some consolation with a penalty awarded for a New Reds handball in their own box, coolly dispatched by Firth to give the Greens a goals-scored advantage over the JCR, their next opponents.
As expected, the grudge match between the Greens and the JCR was intensified by also being the Group of Death runner-up decider. With both teams fielding strong defensive partnerships and aware of the dangers of each other’s strikeforce, it was a hard-fought start to the match with little time on the ball in attacking areas. It looked like it could take a set-piece to break the deadlock and having delivered two right-footed corners to no avail, captain Ogilvie opted for a left-footed in-swinger which evaded everyone and found its way directly into the top corner. The Greens knew their 1-0 lead meant the JCR had to score twice to go through. Another handball decision on the edge of the box gave the JCR an opportunity to put the ball in the box and scramble an equaliser. Then at 1-1 with seconds left to play, the referee reached to blow for full-time but instead punished Cheston for excessive use of his chest and once again the JCR found the net from a free-kick delivery to send them through as 2-1 winners and break Green hearts.
So it was onto the Veterans Challenge semi-final, where the Blacks (1988) defended resolutely against continued pressure from the Greens and looked as if they could steal the victory when on the break. It was kept goalless by the safe hands of striker-turned-keeper Park and forced into sudden-death penalties. The Blacks converted their first penalty but iceman Firth stepped up to sweep home and keep the shootout alive. Goalkeeper Park then saved from the second, to give midfielder Bridges the chance to send the Greens through. He resisted the urge to Panenka and slotted in the winning penalty.
Within minutes, the final was upon the Greens against a 90s Reds (1989) team who had won all of their previous games. Ten minutes each way to become the best (and only twenty-something) veterans in the history of Univ Old Members Day. The Reds were quick on the ball and tough in the tackle and looked on the front foot against the supposed youthful exuberance of the Greens. With the game very open, the Reds drew the first blood with a delightful turn and top-corner finish from their skilful striker. The Greens were moved the ball well and created opportunities but not goals as Crossley saw his shot saved by the solid Reds goalkeeper and Ogilvie floated in a 25yd pass that Buckley volleyed just over the bar. Halftime saw a tactical switch as Park reverted to centre forward and Lewis resumed goalkeeping duties. The Greens continued to create with a number of crosses that couldn’t quite be converted until Park’s run created space for Ogilvie to chip in towards Crossley. The ball fell perfectly for Buckley and he buried it at the back post. 1-1 and only seconds to play – the Greens worked the ball forward for a move that saw Bridges score a glorious winner, straight into the top corner from 35yds – but the final whistle had already been blown. So it was penalties again for the Greens. After his semi-final heroics, Park put the gloves back on, saved one and saw another fly wide. Firth, Bridges, Smith and finally Ogilvie were all on target to give a 4-2 shootout victory and the Bill Sykes Veterans Challenge Cup to the Greens.
Jamie Morrison (2009) has kindly provided this match report:
There is a chapter in Sir Alex Ferguson’s latest book Leadership entitled ‘Preparation’. Unfortunately for the New Whites, the book has sat untouched on their skipper Jamie Morrison’s shelf ever since it was purchased. With several former stalwarts missing and the younger generation having defected to form their own team, the odds were already stacked against the New Whites even before the whereabouts of two of their players in North London was unknown as late as half past nine. As kick off in their first game rolled around, former First XI skipper Nick Baines had just boarded a train at London Paddington. The New Whites had just seven players. The bid to win the Gerry Fitzsimons Cup for the second time in three years was over before it had begun. Or was it? Morrison channelled his inner wheeler-dealer in true Harry Redknapp style (no word yet in whether he also has a bank account in the name of a pet for reasons that have absolutely nothing at all to do with tax) to make several short-term signings to help fill out the squad for each game.
The New Whites set up defiantly to win their group without conceding a goal, defeating the MCR 3-0 and the JCR Women 6-0. This set up a semi-final against the newly-promoted JCR Men’s First XI. For the first time in living (well, my) memory, Univ’s First XI will not be playing in the bottom division next season – a great achievement and hopefully a sign of things to come. Niceties would have to wait until after the game, though, and with the arrival of Nick Baines the New Whites added more reinforcements to their already-impenetrable defensive line. It was backs-to-the-wall defending for most of the 15 minutes, but a 0-0 draw meant that sudden death penalties beckoned. The older, more experienced heads prevailed and thanks to a great stop from goalkeeper Chris Eccles, the New Whites were returning to the Final.
The Final was an end-to-end affair, during which the New Whites twice took the lead before disappointingly conceding from corners. Nevertheless, the final whistle blew to take the game to penalties once again. After the New Reds dragged a penalty wide, the New Whites took the lead. It remained that way until it was squandered by Matt Betts also missing the target. The teams traded blows until the New Reds’ sixth penalty was blazed over the bar. Who would be the man for the moment? There was only one candidate: Matthew Herman. The eagle-eyed amongst you will recall that his First XI career ended in ignominy with a missed penalty, but that he achieved redemption two years ago by scoring the winning penalty in the 2014 Gerry Fitzsimons Cup. Which Herman would turn up this year? Do we even need to ask the question? Cometh the hour, cometh the man. Herman stepped up and slotted the ball past the keeper. Off came his shirt – the New Whites had returned to the summit of Univ Football.
Huge thanks as usual to all of the organisers of the event, especially to Rob the groundsman and of course to Andy. Special thanks to all of the New Whites’ ‘loan signings’. Also a special mention to all of the current Univ teams – the enthusiasm and participation levels are like nothing I can remember. Keep doing what you’re doing and I’m sure a new Golden Era beckons. Hopefully we will see you all again next year, but don’t even think about winning the trophy back next year – we might even have done some preparation.
Player of the Day: Matthew Herman