In a ‘winner takes all’ contest at Colney Lane last Wednesday, UEA Men’s Football I suffered a heart-breaking 3-2 defeat to Loughborough II which confirmed their relegation from Midlands 1A Division.
The hosts went in to the game with the knowledge that a win would keep alive their survival hopes and would be enough to leapfrog their opponents, despite them having a game in hand. But the visitors snatched a priceless victory that extends the gap between the two sides to four points with UEA only have one game to play, confirming their demotion before this week’s Derby Day encounter.
In an evenly contested tie, UEA were their own worst enemy at times. Loughborough were gifted the lead early on after a long throw wasn’t dealt with by the UEA defence, allowing the away player to direct a low shot past the ‘keeper, beating him at his near post.
Though they fought their way back into the match towards the end of the first half when Neil Hurren latched on to a well crafted chipped through ball and poked past the ‘keeper, Loughborough were once again handed the lead on a plate after the interval. After centre-back Daniel Morphew had slashed a clearance skywards, he then hauled down the striker to award the visitors perhaps the most blatant penalty you’re ever likely to see. The resulting spot-kick was dispatched with certified aplomb into the bottom right hand corner by their central midfielder, giving the home side an uphill struggle once more.
Nevertheless, UEA deserve plenty of credit for battling back into the game. This time it was the away side who caused their own downfall, failing to deal with a goal mouth scramble in their own penalty area which was eventually curled home into the bottom corner from just outside the six-yard box by Chuka Obi.
Seconds later, Simon Beeson did well to turn his man and began running through on goal, only to be dragged to the floor by the Loughborough defender. Had the decision been given, the referee would have been given no option but to send off the player. Despite the justified cries from the UEA players, the referee waved away their appeals – a turning point that swung the match back in the favour of UEA’s opponents.
What came next was a moment of pure genius – and unfortunately for the U’s it came from Loughborough’s talented winger. The number seven collected the ball midway into the UEA half, pulled off a sublime ‘Zidane turn’ to beat two players, dropped a shoulder to beat another, then showed an electric turn of pace to force his way into the penalty area where he then unleashed a stunning left footed drive across the goalkeeper and into the top corner.
Cue euphoric celebrations from Loughborough, while the UEA players could only stand completely stunned. It was a goal worthy of winning any game, and unlike the other two goals there was absolutely nothing that could have been done to prevent it.
Understandably, the goal seemed to have knocked the stuffing out of the home side. They tried to press for a late equaliser, but it was the visitors who came closest to scoring as they looked a constant threat on the counter with UEA forcing men forwards in the late stages. Despite a flurry of late free-kicks, throw-ins and corners, Loughborough held firm for the all important three points.
UEA will hope their luck is in store next week, when they come against bitter rivals Essex in the much awaited-for Derby Day encounter.