Football Sport

Double NUL disappointment for men's football

York's football firsts performed nowhere near their full potential in this rearranged and 'doubled up' Saturday fixture, their single goal loss counting for both NUL Cup elimination and the shipping of three very obtainable NUL points. (Thumbnail credit Photos: Arran Bowen-la Grange)

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UNIVERSITY OF YORK FIRSTS 0 vs. KEELE UNIVERSITY FIRSTS 1
Northern Universities League and Northern Universities Cup, Saturday 7th March 2009

York's football firsts performed nowhere near their full potential in this rearranged and 'doubled up' Saturday fixture, their single goal loss counting for both NUL Cup elimination and the shipping of three very obtainable NUL points. In a temporary distraction from the team's ongoing battle to preserve their BUCS Northern Conference 2B status, York conceded a well-worked Keele goal on the half-hour and never really recovered their poise.

Anton Murphy was rewarded for getting on the scoresheet in last week's crucial 3-1 victory against Teesside with a starting place in attack alongside the slightly out-of-form Mark Gouland, with Dom O'Shea dropping back into central midfield. The Teesside win, and the equally important 3-2 defeat of Durham the week before, have kept the firsts afloat in an unwanted relegation tussle, and maybe their minds were concentrating on this today.

The decisive moment of a poor match came through Keele's first notable incursion into home territory, the impressive right-winger Otty, who had already created difficulties with his strength and physicality, worked enough room for the cross, which Oliver Rabie converted from close-range. From York's perspective, having bossed proceedings from kick-off, it was rather frustrating.

Murphy had looked bright in the opening stages, despite playing off the back of two Futsal matches, and the home side's passing and workrate was generally good, particularly when channelled through Joe Brennan on the left. By contrast, their Staffordshire visitors had looked disjointed and wasted possession, their goalkeeper not inspiring confidence by punching instead of catching. Lively playmaker Tom Wilson had the best chances; drilling a free-kick across the face of goal, before forcing a good, parried save with a curler from the 18-yard line.

Captain Matt Witherwick demanded more in his half-time team-talk, but York's inclination to commit forward brought the consequence of leaving sizeable gaps in defence for Keele to exploit. This happened, dangerously, on two or three occasions before York found their rhythm again. Mark Johnson was introduced for Murphy on the hour, but added little to the cutting edge from midfield, O'Shea having been pushed into a more advanced role. He saw a left-footed tester fly narrowly over the crossbar before being denied by a last-ditch tackle after being released by Ed Murrills.

With time expiring, Witherwick was cautioned for dissent and Andrew Emmerson was forced to block with his legs to keep the score at one in stoppage time. Moments later, in their brightest counter-attack of the afternoon, York should have snatched something, only to see Gouland's well-placed header hooked off the goalline. It was a passage of play which summed up the afternoon; great endeavour from York, but with nothing to show for it. Following a trip to Leeds Met in midweek, the firsts take on Teesside next Sunday in a season-deciding game.

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