The first home Bucs game of the year for UEA men’s second XI football team was not one any player will look back on with relish. The day got off to an inauspicious start, as seemingly interminable delays pushed kick off back by 40 minutes. The cause of the delay was the fact there was no referee in evidence, with a qualified spectator having to return home to pick up his kit and stolidly officiate for the full 90. Not only that, but Anglia Ruskin were angered that their kit (white with yellow accents) was ostensibly similar to UEA’s full yellow kit. Both of these mishaps seemed to be as the result of a mix up: the union had assured the team on Monday that the original referee would be available to officiate the derby game. Not only that, but it seems that it had told Ruskin that UEA would be playing in blue.
This comedy of errors – devoid entirely of any humour – led to a distinctly tense atmosphere before the game had even began. Ruskin players were agitating to abandon the game, and to appeal the result if it were to continue. Sadly any appeal on the part of Ruskin was proved to be irrelevant by the end of the game. Ruskin’s captain, Nicholas Farthing, was adamant that UEA don bibs in order to distinguish themselves from their opposition. Eventually the new referee returned to Colney Lane, and UEA donned bibs of various colours. As such it was impossible to identify the numbers and names of the UEA players.
Finally the game kicked off to a predictably scrappy start, after the protracted delays led to an inevitable lack of focus. It was a fairly even affair, but UEA were being dispossessed far too easily, in what became a hallmark of the game. The most egregious example of this came when their fullback was disposed in the box, being saved only by a strong tackle from goalkeeper Jack Morton. It was a fairly nondescript half, and although UEA were getting stronger in the tackle, they ended the first 45 being pushed back into their own half.
The second half was a different story entirely. Right from the kick off, with an excellent driving run down the left side and a couple of nifty stepovers, UEA’s winger put a precise pass into the box, which was obligingly tapped into the back of the net. However, Ruskin soon answered with a lovely ball and a tap in of their own, bringing the score to 1-1. After particularly woeful finishing, with chance after chance being skied by their forwards, Ruskin had finally found the net.
A late and particularly hefty challenge gave UEA a free kick on the edge of the box, in a particularly juicy area. It was hit straight over the wall, and Chris Coyston, Ruskin’s keeper, did not exactly cover himself in glory. Despite his flailing attempts to claw it back over the line, his terrible fumble meant UEA now led 2-1. As the half went on, almost everyone on the pitch looked frustrated. Despite the three goals, neither team had found their rhythm. A UEA player on the sidelines shouted confidently “They don’t want it!” A few minutes later, however, Ruskin proved them wrong, when a looping free kick from the half way line was headed into the bottom left corner.
Several lovely balls were put into the box by UEA, but there was a distinct lack of anyone to dispatch them, until finally a forward availed themselves of one of these passes. However Ruskin’s number one made a great diving save. Judging by his vociferous reaction, he felt he had at least in part made up for his earlier mistake.
In the last few minutes UEA were putting in more and more convincing attacks, and the feeling on the by-line was that a late goal was there to be nicked. However a driving Ruskin run down the porous left-side of UEA’s defence led to a great ball being floated in to the box. Morton couldn’t get to the ball before Ruskin’s forward, and the ball trickled sadly into the net, making it 3-2 to Ruskin. Moments later, the whistle blew for full time. Just as it seemed UEA were about to regain the lead, the worst had happened.
In the post-game team talk, UEA’s manager, Lee Hamilton, said that “we were robbed there”, but added the team’s lack of concentration was symptomatic of “the story of the season”. It was a scrappy and disorganised game from beginning to end for both teams, but UEA certainly seemed on the ascendency throughout the second half, and UEA’s downcast players “know they were better”. Hopefully they will demonstrate this in their next match.