2019 started in an underwhelming manner for the University of Liverpool Football 1st Team after a 2-1 home defeat at the hands of the University of Central Lancashire on Wednesday. A fortuitous own goal proved to be the only reward for UoLFC in tough conditions at Wyncote Sports Grounds, as they came unstuck against the league leaders in their first match after losing head coach Fran Alonso to Lewes LFC of the FA Women’s Championship.
After the postponement of last week’s fixture due to the snowy conditions, it was inevitable that the state of the pitch would be far from ideal, and this showed in the early knockings of the match. There were several misplaced passes from both sides, with the bobbly surface proving particularly troublesome. This became apparent in the 23rd minute, when UoLFC goalkeeper Ben Atkinson slipped on the greasy surface after receiving a back pass, allowing the onrushing UCLAN striker to finish into an empty net.
This cruel moment of misfortune was to be returned in the Blues’ favour, though, as only five minutes later Atkinson produced a huge kick, causing panic in the UCLAN defence. With Maxim Green pressurising his opponents, the defender headed over his advancing ‘keeper and watched as the ball bounced into his own goal. With both teams falling victim to the elements, it was unsurprising the ball spent much of the time off of the ground, but centre-back Harris Saunders remained a commanding presence at the back for UoLFC, dominating his aerial duels. When the play was on the ground, the majority of the Blues’ attacking play came down the right-hand side, with Green and right-back Harvey Rudolph providing a constant, direct threat.
The second half began with promise for UoLFC, as Ed Simon conjured up two half-chances, first unable to find the final square pass and then going close with an acrobatic effort. UCLAN soon demonstrated their qualities, too, as their midfielder produced a curling effort that cannoned off of the post minutes later. From here, the away team seemed in the ascendency, with some last-ditch defending and brilliant saves on the hour preventing a UCLAN second. However, the eventual winner did arrive moments later, when a Saunders clearance fell to an opposition midfielder who smashed a fierce first-time strike from the edge of the area past Atkinson.
With UoLFC claiming several penalty shouts, the game became more stretched and end-to-end as the Blues’ searched for an equaliser. UCLAN had a golden opportunity to seal the game with fifteen minutes to play, but the player was unable to sort out his feet to still give University of Liverpool hope. Despite this, the Blues’ were unable to generate any sustained periods of possession or attacking pressure, and frustrations began to show with a silly altercation on the pitch as the game reached a scrappy conclusion. There was time for a couple more UoLFC chances, with a header only flashing a few yards wide, but UCLAN held on to claim the three points.
The result sees the University of Liverpool 1st Team fall eight points behind UCLAN in the race for the title, but remain in second place by virtue of their superior head-to-head record against Edge Hill. It is this team that the Blues’ will face next on 13th February, where new Head Coach Lewis Singleton will be hoping to reduce the gap in an always feisty local derby. Elsewhere on Wednesday, the 2nd and 3rd teams lost to Manchester and Keele respectively, whilst the 4ths defeated Salford 2-1 at Wyncote.