UEA men’s first football team surrendered a two-goal lead against Essex as the point was shared in scorching conditions in Colchester. The match drew a huge crowd, who were certainly not disappointed by the drama and quality produced over the 90 minutes by both sets of players. UEA set up with a 4-1-4-1 system, seeking to catch Essex on the break at every available opportunity.
The opening stages began cautiously, as both sides looked to acclimatise to the weather conditions as well as the boisterous crowd covering the perimeter of the pitch. Ryan Chapman’s set pieces were a constant threat to the Essex defence and it was an inch perfect delivery from the midfielder that forced the away side into the lead. From just inside Essex’s half, Chapman swung in a ball that decieved the whole defensive line. An attempted clearance eventually came off Ryan Fletcher and, more through luck than judgment, found its way into the back of the Essex net – cue delirious celebrations from the travelling support. It wasn’t long before UEA doubled their advantage. After a measured through ball from Graham, Fletcher found himself locked in a one-on-one dual with the opposing defender. It was the Essex man who blinked first as he went to ground in a last ditch attempt to foil UEA’s goal-scorer.
Despite seeming to mostly get ball, the referee had little hesitation in pointing to the spot, and after a spectator delay, Chapman held his nerve to send the keeper the wrong way and send UEA fans into ecstasy. The home side offered disappointingly little in the way of attacking options, but this was largely down to the way UEA had set up.Luke Graham was the linchpin of the UEA team and served to be a constant thorn in Essex’s side during the first half with his strength and expert reading of the game. Heading into the second half, UEA would have been forgiven in thinking they were cruising towards a Derby Day victory – but it was one momentary lapse in concentration that undid all their hard work. A ball into the box from the right flank somehow found its way through the whole UEA defensive line, only failing to elude the Essex front man who tapped in from a yard out with their only meaningful chance of the game. UEA were certainly rocked after that sucker punch and within a minute Essex’s comeback was complete.
After a rare sloppy moment in midfield UEA lost possession to an Essex striker, who ingeniously found the top corner of the net whilst surrounded by men from just inside the box, giving Alex Kibbey no chance in goal. Heading into the final moments of the contest, it was only the away side who looked like getting a winner. Chris Martey and Joe Jones both caused Essex serious problems on the wings after coming on, but UEA lacked the clinical finishing that would have won the game.
UEA dominated the game for all but two minutes and captain Gwion Ap Dafy summed up the feelings of a depleted squad at the full-time whistle: “After leading 2-0, coming off the field at the end with a draw feels like a loss.”“It’s a harsh lesson for the lads, but I’m sure this will make the squad stronger. We’re still fighting in our BUCS league, and although today was not meant to be, we will use this as our motivation to make sure we put things right in the coming weeks.”