It’s often a competitive and feisty encounter when two teams from the same university must play each other. On Tuesday this was no different for the men’s 1st vs Mens 2nd team football match, the stakes were just a little bit higher than your average BUCS game. This was the semi-final of the BUCS Conference Cup. It was also the first time in at least a decade that the men’s 1st team played the men’s 2nd team competitively.
The men’s 2nd teams journey to the Semi-Final saw victories against the Aberdeen 4thteam, the Abertay 2nd team, and Aberdeen 3rd team. Both Aberdeen fixtures saw thrilling penalty shoot outs.
The men’s 1st team had to defeat Strathclyde 2s, Glasgow Caledonian 1s, and Glasgow 2s on their way to the Semi-final. In a similar fashion to the men’s 2nd team, two of their victories came via penalty shoot outs.
There was no mistaking that going into this match, the men’s 2nd team were the underdogs, playing two divisions below the first team. Of the final four teams in the cup competition, the men’s 2nd team were the lowest-ranked. Yet confidence within the men’s 2nd team was high. There is a strong team spirit in the second team. They are the kind of group that always plays with smiles on their faces. They have had a strong league season and currently sit top of their division.
The men’s 1st Team have had arguably a mixed bag of a season. Semester 1 was certainly not the semester which they would have wanted, having sat mid-table in 2A for most of it. But since the start of 2020, the side has really found consistently good form. In previous matches that I have seen, such as their 4-0 routing of Dundee, really shows the entertaining and stylish kind of football that this side is capable of.
So the scene was set, two in-form sides, from the same university, were set to play each other under the floodlights at University Park. A large crowd showed up to watch the match. Although the away end (the 2nd team were the away team) seemed to attract more supporters than most away sides during a match at University Park.
The match started, rather predictably, the men’s 1st team dominated possession and looked to build and break down their deputies. It was certainly something which the 2nd team were not used to. During an average league game, the men’s 2nd team would be the side which would dominate possession and wear their opponents out. But the away team adapted to this role reversal well for much of the first half. Sonny Innes (centre back and captain) along with Andrew Meaney (fellow centre back and FS model) defended resolutely and showed great leadership in dictating how to defend as a unit.
The breakthrough for the home side eventually came in the 33rd minute. Whilst it would be wrong to say it was against the run of play, it was though the home teams first real chance of the game. It came from a first team corner routine. Alex Mclaughlin, who was positioned on at the edge of the six-yard box nearest to the ball, he raced towards the ball. This forced defenders to move with him away from the near post. This created space in the six-yard box. The ball was then whipped into this space, Tyler Gilmore (first team right back) ran with pace into the path of the flying ball. His resulting rocket of a header flew beyond the reaches of Adam Mahoney, who was guarding the near post, and goalkeeper, Dan Ross. 1-0 to the first team.
This naturally frustrated the 2nd team, the side had worked hard to keep the score 0-0 and it was undone by a well-executed set-piece routine. 5 minutes later the deficit was doubled. The men’s first team who had grown in confidence since the scoring began to bombard the away teams defensive third. The second goal came from an attacking play which was not cleared by the 2s back four. The ball fell to Tom Grant (first team midfielder), who subsequently, from just inside the box, slotted it into the top right corner of the goal, out of the reaches of Ross.
It is an exaggeration to say that the men’s first team looked defensively solid for the whole of the first half. Chances did fall for the underdogs. The best chance fell to Jimmy Thompson (the fastest player on the pitch, and most likely in all of Fife). The 2nd team striker leapt onto a mishit backpass and raced beyond home keeper, Montanaro. But Thompson whilst he had beaten the keeper could not put it into the back of the net.
For the spectator the first half saw a first team which controlled possession for long periods of the game, but in reality both sides had 3 real chances, the men’s 2nd team took none, the men’s 1st team took 2/3. In a game where the 2nd team were going to find chances few and far between, they really needed to be more clinical in the second half.
The second half saw a far more bold approach by the 2nd team. No longer were they going to sit back and defend. It was not long until the away team got a lifeline. Through a set piece, Seb Van Gilst used his 6’5” frame to beat his man at the near post and head the ball beyond the reaches of Montanaro. The score was now 2-1. We now had a game on our hands.
From here the game could have really gone two ways, either the score could have really rattled the first team and the 2nd team would push for an equaliser, or the goal would act as a wake up call and spur the home side to quell the 2nd team.
Unfortunately for the 2nd team, what were not needed at this moment were mistakes. In the 65thminute a low flying ball came into the 2ndteams box. It should have been relatively text book goalkeeping for Ross in goal. But the ball was fumbled by the away keeper and fell into the path of Seb Ratzan (first team striker). As the game progressed the home side pushed on and wore down the 2nd team. The 4thgoal for the first team came 10 minutes later. Similar to the third goal, a ball came in from the right, Flynn Gray darted into the box beating the second team defence and hitting it low into the bottom right corner. The final goal came with 10 minutes to play, the cross came in again to the box. Ross parried the ball but only into the path of Flynn Gray, who once again pounced on the opportunity. Making the score 5-1.
The men’s 1st team were worthy winners, they were clinical with their chances and bounced back from the 2nd team’s goal early in the second half. But the men’s 2nd team can gain some comfort from the fact that for periods of the game (particularly in the first stages of the second half) they were as good as their more senior opponents, further many players in the second team put in strong individual performances. The men’s first team now progress to the final of the Conference Cup and also remain in the Queens Park Shield. Whilst for the men’s 2nd team the main task will be to focus on their all-important final league gain with the hope of securing promotion out of Scottish 4B.