York’s Futsal first team will again take their place alongside the elite of Britain’s sporting universities at the BUCS Championship Finals in Sheffield (10th March-13th March), after saving their best until last in a tense round of final qualifying games in Teesside this past Sunday.
With the snow forcing the postponement of the final round in York two weeks ago and with a much-changed fixture list, York’s destiny was still in their possession. York were to face Durham, who sat below them in the group and Stirling, who by some idiosyncrasy in the fixture list owing to travel arrangements and game time, they would have to face for the third time in the group stages.
York made the best possible start in early stages of the game against Durham, breaking the deadlock inside the first few minutes of play – standout player Alex Tringham expertly beating his man to find the yard of space to fire home from the left-hand side of the area. Hard work from York was undone by a cheap equaliser, arguably against the run of play to level it. Tringham tucked away his second of the match just minutes later, but the yo-yo game was to produce one last twist and Durham grabbed a snap-shot goal from close range with under two minutes to go to pull off a shock draw against the White Rose.
The draw with Durham, however, meant little in the standing of the groups. Now a point clear of Stirling with the same amount of games played, York had the leeway of draw or win to progress to the final play-off games. A loss would see them play one extra preliminary play-off game and have a harder route to the finals.
A strong and ever-improving Stirling side went into the game with the mental edge, having not lost to York on the previous four meetings stretching back to 2008. This edge appeared to pay dividends – after a sloppy start from York, Stirling managed to break through the middle to squeeze an unsighted shot into the York goal to grab the lead. If the first goal had a touch of luck about it, the Scots’ second was nothing but.
With the ball loose just outside of the area, Stirling threw a foot at it looking to put the ball in the direction of goal, only for it to take a colossal deflection and loop agonizingly into the top corner over a marooned David Ambrozejczyk in the White Rose goal. York would come close to getting back into the game – Ben Smith hitting the woodwork from close range before drawing a foul just outside the Stirling area, allowing Danny York to expertly dispatch the free-kick in off the post. But it was a case of too little too late, however, Stirling bundling in a third despite a legitimate appeal for a line-infringement in the first instance and handball in front of goal seconds before. Slipping out of the top two spots in the group, it was now two play-off games instead of one which would decide York’s BUCS campaign.
In a strange twist of fate, a walkover against MMU Cheshire due their failure to turn up saw York progress, with a tense final game against Northumbria awaiting the side. Northumbria were slight favourites going in after winning the group with two games to spare, despite a slip up to Edge Hill Seconds. Northumbria had, in spite of the strong league position, however, somehow missed out on playing Manchester and Stirling, along with York who where the strongest ranked teams at the group stage. With Captain Jack Crane calling for one last effort, his team looked to test Northumbria credentials from the first whistle.
The skippers word’s seemed to hit resonate with his team, with Adam Leadbeater pulling the strings of the game from his last man role. This dominance would give York the first breakthrough. A ball from the defence found its way to Tringham’s feet on the edge of the area – a sharp step to his right side allowed him to wind up for a typically thunderous left foot drive, the ball sailing past the hapless Northumbria stopper – Advantage York.
York’s second and decisive blow would come just minutes later and, most importantly, gave them a cushion going into the break. With the Northumbria attack broken down, a ball from Ambrozejczyk found Stopforth whose quick turn enabled York to counter. From his touch, the ball was swept to an advancing Tringham whose driven left-foot cross found Ben Smith yards out to tap home and score a goal of Arsenal-like quality.
Northumbria did have chances to get back into the game – Ambrozejczyk having to make an instinctive save to turn the ball onto the bar early in the second-half to deny them. They would get a consolation goal with a minute remaining, but it was York who closed out the game to spark jubilant scenes at the final whistle and give York a berth in the Championships.
York Seconds, however, will not be making the short trip down the M1 after losing their preliminary play-off match against Manchester University and coming up against two very experienced teams in Teesside and Edge Hill, both of whom also advanced to Sheffield. York struggled to get into the game against a veteran opposition and they were finally undone by some smart Manchester attack, going on to lose 3-0. It could have been more if it was not for the play of goalkeeper Nick Harris, whose heroics saved York on countless occasions.
A determined performance on the day should give York the confidence needed to make a sustained run in the Championships as they will look to better their runners-up spot in the Trophy competition last year. Bath University, who represented Great Britain at the European University Championships in 2009, Sheffield Hallam, who possess a full England Futsal international in Ben Mortlock and newcomers Imperial await York in group C.
Sky Sports are covering the Championships throughout the three days and the England Futsal manager Peter Sturgess will also be in attendance along with a plethora of club scouts, so the Futsallers will look to shine on the biggest stage yet again for a York team this year.