A controversial decision to award a penalty to Essex meant that the UEA men’s second team had to come back late on to claim a 3-3 draw in a thrilling encounter in Wivenhoe.
After taking the lead through Gary Hargreaves, UEA fell behind after two quick goals prior the interval. The boys in blue then equalised with Bradley Nelson, before a penalty for either side meant that the teams were forced to share the spoils on Derby Day.
Despite being one of the standout contests on UEA’s triumphant Derby Day, the match started slowly, with neither team wanting to give anything away in the opening exchanges.
The first incident of note fell to the hosts. An in-swinging corner evaded everyone except an Essex defender, whose header was ruled offside, much to the delight of the travelling UEA support who made their presence known throughout.
The deadlock was eventually broken by UEA, after a sustained period of dominance. After some great jinking wing play, the ball fell to Hargreaves 8-yards from goal and he sent an unstoppable shot past the goalkeeper’s despairing dive.
After being saved by the officials previously, it was another free kick from the left that brought the Essex equaliser. Although the initial flick-on was saved brilliantly by Kavi Luchowa, there was nothing he could do with the follow up as the Essex man stole home.
Failure to deal with set-pieces began to look like it could be UEA’s downfall when Essex took the lead on the stroke of half-time, with a thundering header from another free-kick finding the net.
The score line was harsh on UEA, who had more of the play in an edgy first half.
Essex started the second half as strongly as they had finished the first with their big number 10 proving to be a good outlet. However, UEA managed to find their way back into the game thanks to the endeavour of Nelson. A hopeful ball forward was chased by Nelson, who then beat the goalkeeper in the air to nod the ball home.
In an ever changing game the score line once again swung in favour of the hosts, when they were controversially awarded a penalty. When Essex’s substitute striker attempted to round the Luchowa, the referee pointed to the spot, claiming that the keeper had tripped the forward.
Despite the challenge appearing a clean one and the front-man staying on his feet, the big striker dusted himself down to send Luchowa the wrong way.
However, there was still time for one more twist. Hastings was scythed down in the area, allowing Alex Willerton to convert the resulting spot-kick. Although UEA had achieved a credible draw, the sense of injustice left them wondering what might have been.