On a damp Wednesday afternoon Newcastle University 1st XI welcomed an ill-disciplined, yet unbeaten, Manchester Met team. Both had started the season impressively with Newcastle and the Met 1 and 2 points off the league leaders Liverpool John Moores, respectively, meaning a loss would have proved devastating to the promotion hopes of either team.
Newcastle’s jubilation at the end of a 90 minutes in which they had kept the opposition relatively quiet was therefore understandable. The win makes it four wins out of five, putting the pressure back on the league leaders.
The game started with predictable combativeness with both teams looking for a chance to make an early impression. The energetic Allan Owen set about his work of tirelessly harrying defenders and within a few minutes this pressing started to reap rewards. A poor pass from a Met midfielder left his partner in trouble, who slipped and handled the ball, giving Newcastle a free-kick 20 yards out and in the perfect position to go for goal.
“The energetic Allan Owen set about his work of tirelessly harrying defenders and within a few minutes this pressing started to reap rewards”
The free kick from James Golby was tame and should have been easily dealt with by the keeper, he however had other ideas and deciding it was too wet for him on the day, dropped the ball at his feet and Allan Owen, who was following in, got to the ball first and poked it in.
After going one down, frustration started to creep into the visiting team and it was unsurprising when the fairly uncivil Met number 8 was booked for dissent, the start of a string of Met players who would go on to trouble the referee’s book.
Despite going behind, Met failed to force their way back into the game and all their attempts to break were marshalled well by the Uni defence. Newcastle took advantage of this strength at the back to start to assert their dominance on the game by knocking the ball about far more fluently than the opposition.
It was in this spell of pressure when the hosts produced their best move of the match. A lofted ball forward was killed brilliantly by Matt Greenwood who played a fantastic ball in between the static Met centre back and right back for the onrushing Owen, who confidently dispatched past the keeper for his and Newcastle’s, second.
The home side were firmly on top at this stage and things only got worse for the Met when, with less than 25 minutes gone, they conceded a penalty for holding onto a Uni player at a corner. The penalty was dispatched by Matt Greenwood low to bottom right corner.
“A lofted ball forward was killed brilliantly by Matt Greenwood who played a fantastic ball in between the static Met centre back and right back for the onrushing Owen, who confidently dispatched past the keeper for his and Newcastle’s, second”
Manchester Met looked far from having the quality to overturn the 3-0 score line and with centre back Nick Harrison proving solid whenever they looked to break, the game was as good as over.
Hope was given, however, when Met scored a freak goal after half an hours play. A corner was cleared and a retreating Met player threw a foot at the ball which looped over the helpless Harrison Avery in goal, dropping into the top right hand corner.
Uni didn’t allow this to upset their rhythm and Greenwood and Owen continued to link up with Golby and looked threatening without being able to fashion any more clear-cut chances in the half.
As the weather worsened, both teams seemed to struggle to keep the ball on the deck and a ten minute interval which saw both teams give the ball away at will meant that despite their greater ability on the ball Newcastle were unable get to halftime with the game truly out of sight.
Newcastle’s dominance of the first half seemed to breed a sense of complacency and despite their attempt to get straight onto the front foot from kick-off it was the Met who dominated the early exchanges in the second half.
“This chance wasn’t enough to wake Newcastle up however and they were struggling to get out of their half”
Harrison Avery was called on to make his first meaningful save of the game on the hour mark when a corner was met by a Met head and Avery had to be sharp to get down low to his left to parry the ball away. This chance wasn’t enough to wake Newcastle up however and they were struggling to get out of their half, the only outlet being the pace of Owen in behind.
The pressure resulted in Newcastle being pushed further and further back whenever Manchester had the ball. Yet, Manchester were unable to convert this pressure into anything meaningful and half way through the half, Newcastle started to force themselves back into the game.
The best chance of the half in fact fell to Newcastle’s Golby when a great ball over the top by Owen left him with only the keeper to beat. Golby however elected to go for the chip and the ball flew harmlessly high and wide.
The final 10 minutes of the game were dominated by the referee who, by this stage seemed incredibly keen on producing yellows. The Met number 8 earned his second yellow of the day after deliberately handling the ball in the Newcastle area and, after a brief tantrum, made his way off the pitch, reducing Manchester to 10.
Met had an opportunity to score late but a brilliant goal line clearance from Nick Harrison kept the score at 3-1. Newcastle were easily able to see out the final few minutes and the win leaves Newcastle on 12 points.
Uni Captain Jack Taylor remarked after the game that he believes “we’ve set a good platform to kick on in the promotion push. We’ve got an excellent chance of winning the league with the quality we have, however, there’s no room for mistakes and we’ll need to perform consistently well to secure top spot”.
Taylor also gave endearing praise for man of the match Allan Owen; “Allan had an absolutely outstanding game today. His physicality is frightening and when he combines that with the class he showed today there’s no doubt he will cause havoc for defenders”.
Next up for Newcastle they face 4th placed University of Manchester, who they beat 2-0 in the reverse fixture.