On a boiling Tuesday afternoon, many students would be preoccupied with figuring out how their barbecue works, but at Longbenton 3G there was real classic sizzling away. For both teams, the cup was the only remaining hope for any silverware this season, with Northern Irish vice-captain Smyth claiming that second division Thundercats ought to take a course in fine art due to their expertise in drawing games this season. Thundercats, a team with a core of Medical students, took on one of the Wednesday Intra-Mural top teams, Dyslexic Untied who sat in second place in the top division but can no longer prevent the Medic 2’s from taking the title.
The game began at a frantic pace, and Dyslexic began to immediately showcase their quality when the ball failed to be cleared in the opposition box. Thundercats allowed the ball to fall to the one player they hoped it would not, and Ben Blackburn thumped the ball past a helpless Dallas in the Thundercats net.
It went from bad to worse for the second division side, when midfielder Tom Hannah beautifully clipped through a pass to put Ben Blackburn in with just the goalkeeper to beat. He dispatched the ball with surgical precision that many of the Thundercats would have only seen during medical work experience.
The task for the Thundercats now seemed somewhat insurmountable, 2-0 down to a strong, fit and physical Dyslexic side who had been at this stage of the competition many times in their illustrious history. It required big characters such as Jack Smythe to vocalise the problem, at times to the dismay of the referee. The extra intensity of the Thundercats shocked Dyslexic, and the second division side pulled a goal back with a composed finish from Fergus Houston.
“2-0 down to a strong, fit and physical Dyslexic side who had been at this stage of the competition many times in their illustrious history”
The Dyslexics were clearly confused at the rich fighting spirit of the Thundercats, and were nearly made to pay with a defensive mix up which nearly cost Dyslexics the lead, a stray header whistling past the post to save the blushes of goalkeeper Martin-Harvey and his defence.
Dyslexics continued to apply pressure, and one of the standout performances of the afternoon was that of Felix Tritton, who tackled consistently with dissertation-time discipline. Indeed, Tom Dallas also kept the Thundercats in the game when he was forced to creatively save the ever threatening shot from Ben Blackburn. A crucial moment, as seconds later Ben Richardson took a corner at the other end of the pitch, where a combination of a devious flight and the aggressive sun bearing down made any attempt for Martin-Harvey to claim extremely difficult. Ben Stratolis met the ball cleanly, guiding the ball into the Dyslexic net.
“one of the standout performances of the afternoon was that of Felix Tritton, who tackled consistently with dissertation-time discipline”
With the game slithering towards half time, and the heat sapping the energy of each player, it would be easy to assume that both teams were playing for the whistle. But not before Dyslexic once again regained the lead when Paddy Fordham headed in after Thundercats poorly defended a corner. However, in the dying moments of the first half, the game took another unexpected turn, when Ramsey, who caught the dyslexic defence flat footed, calmly slotted home to finally complete an extraordinary half of football, with the game finely poised at 3-3.
The half time team talk from Fergus Houston was like that of the parent-teacher meeting of an intelligent but work shy student, he was critical of missed tackles and too many balls over the top of the dyslexic’s towering defence, but optimistic that, with the raw abilities of the squad, an unprecedented place in the semi-finals could be achieved.
“Morris throughout the game demonstrated a gloss well above the division he currently plays in”
The second half began at much the same pace that the first half finished. The main source of joy that was achieved by the Thundercats was through the excellent midfield duo of Josh Robins and Matt Morris. Josh Robins, a ferocious tackler, outstanding long-range passer and often critic of his teammates, remained focused in breaking up the technical quality of Dyslexics and recycling the ball into chances.
Morris throughout the game demonstrated a gloss well above the division he currently plays in, with his movement at times dazzling the overheated and overworked dyslexic defence.
However, it was the quality demonstrated in the 57th minute by Thundercat skipper Fergus Houston which amazed those at Longbenton, with the midfielder striking a poor clearance first time past the bamboozled eyes of helpless goalkeeper Martin-Harvey. The Thundercats bench erupted at Houston demonstrated a dance I had only seen from his namesake Whitney back in the 1990’s. The second division side lead first division title contenders 4-3.
However, on this hot day, the cream rose to the top when striker Ben Blackburn who had been quiet since the beginning of the second half, demonstrated a hallmark of any top striker when he tapped in the ball after an outstanding save from Thundercat goalkeeper Dallas to make the score line 4-4. This proved to be as far as the Thundercats could push Untied, with the next 10 minutes seeing the Dyslexics pepper the Thundercat goal. Notably, the Dyslexic’s went extremely close to securing the lead when the ball was cleared of the line by Ben Richardson.
Richardson was another who proved he was division one standard, with his defensive capabilities preventing Felix Dandrea from truly proving his devastating right foot, and his own delivery of the ball a key patch in the quilt of a gripping match. Fergus Houston courageously decided to fight fire with fire when he substituted on the physical force of Emeka Okoye, who disturbed the Dyslexic defence but never quite had the final ball to prove himself.
However, and not to be harsh to a valiant Thundercats side, they had simply run out of steam. The electric energy of Ben Blackburn took control of a tightly poised game when he superbly turned and struck home to make the score 5-4 in the 81st minute. The Thundercats couldn’t reply to this, and their fate was sealed when Tom Burnett rounded the goalkeeper to book the Dyslexics place in the semi-final of the Wednesday intra-mural cup.
“Fergus Houston courageously decided to fight fire with fire when he substituted on the physical force of Emeka Okoye”
The Thundercats demonstrated quality in the right areas of the pitch, and scoring four goals against a team unbeaten until January is certainly a feather upon their cap, but Dyslexic deserved to finish winners.