Heartbreak for York in futsal semi final

UNIVERSITY OF YORK 2-3 UNIVERSITY OF BRIGHTON (AET)
BUCS Championship Semi Final

A memorable season for York’s futsal team came to a close on Sunday, as they were defeated by the narrowest of margins in the BUCS Championships semi final.

With six seconds left on the clock and York leading 2-1, Brighton scrambled a last-gasp equaliser to prolong what had been a fiercely-fought encounter, one that would ultimately break York hearts in extra time.

Having made the long journey down south the previous night, York had no excuses as the game kicked off in front of an eager home crowd. Both sides began in the tentative manner that might be expected on such an occasion, being careful with possession and avoiding giving away early chances.

Jonny Sim was initially the busier of the two keepers, but soon his opposite number had to react quickly to deflect an Alex Tringham shot behind. From the subsequent corner, Tringham found space again but saw his shot blocked, producing half-hearted but futile appeals for handball.

York soon found their rhythm, comfortably passing the ball around at the back thanks to their great movement off the ball. Blocks by Jonny Brown and Tringham were still required to keep the score level, as was Ash Daly’s admirable handling of the tall Brighton pivot up top. Tom Day held the ball up fantastically, producing a one two with Daly that saw the ball flash just wide of the target.

Soon after, Brighton would grab the elusive first goal. A powerful strike from the right hand side took a slight but crucial deflection off the outstretched leg of Tringham, taking it past Sim and into the York goal. Until the end of the half the momentum swung in favour of Brighton who continued to be denied by York’s resilient defence, but had to produce some of their own as York continued to threaten on the counter.

At half-time the score was still 1-0 to the hosts, in a tense and physical game in which both sides had racked up the foul count through their stubborn defensive endeavours.

The second half began in a similar manner with both teams having spells of possession and both threatening on the counter. Some slick play from York saw Dom Hallas fire just over the crossbar, before Brighton had a gilt-edged chance in which a better-weighted pass would surely have seen them extend their lead.

York made them rue their miss immediately. A wonderful passing move culminated in a James Briars shot being well-saved by the keeper, but the rebound was swiftly pounced on by Brown at the back post to level the scores.

York continued to pass and move well, exhibiting some great flowing futsal. They survived a couple of close-range free-kicks, and could have gone ahead twice through Daly. A great sliding save from the keeper prevented him first, before his right-foot rocket whistled inches past the post.

Hallas was the next to be denied, before Sim had to come to the rescue at the opposite end.

However, it was in familiar circumstances that York edged into the lead. A well-worked corner straight off the training ground thundered into the top corner thanks to the left foot of Tringham; something York have been accustomed to this season.

With the score at 2-1 with nine minutes left, both sides were roused into even greater levels of intensity. Growing increasingly desperate, Brighton threw forward everything they had, bombarding their opponents with more and more long balls.

A stray kick-in almost levelled the score in calamitous fashion, but the Brighton forward was unable to direct the ball into the open net. Daly and Tringham were magnificent in coping with the powerful Brighton target man, but chances were still created and on occasion York were fortunate that Brighton’s finishing was not as clinical as it might have been.

York still threatened to extend their lead though, with Connor McCoy forcing a spectacular save from the Brighton shot-stopper, before two Tringham shots were blocked consecutively by a determined defence. The Brighton keeper was soon involved in an attacking dimension too as his side committed everyone forward, something that was almost punished on the counter.

As time trickled closer and closer to the final buzzer, York’s resolve looked unbreakable. Tackles and blocks flew in from every player, and as the clock entered the last 30 seconds York seemed to have one foot in the final. Hearts were in mouths as a close-range free-kick looked threatening, but it was unable to breach the black and yellow wall.

However, the resulting corner was pulled back and a scuffed Brighton shot somehow found its way to a teammate in space in the box. 6.2 seconds away from a momentous York victory, the Brighton forward cut short such fantasies with a clinical lifted finish into the net. This frenetic semi final would be taken to extra time.

Both sides battled on in the first five minute period of extra time, but it was shortly after the start of the second period that Brighton dealt the critical blow. A sharp turn and early shot nestled in the corner of the net, sparking wild scenes of jubilation from the home side and their crowd.

3-2 down with less than four minutes to go, York pulled out all the stops. They almost clawed their way level when an incisive throw forward was superbly latched onto by the head of Hallas, lobbing the keeper but frustratingly striking the woodwork.

Running out of options, York lifted their keeper to play with an extra outfielder. This risk was almost rewarded when their build-up play found Day in space in the box, but the captain’s attempt was unfortunately struck wide.

The final buzzer came all too soon for the York boys, sounding for the very last time and marking an agonising end to their season. Both sides had matched each other in their herculean efforts throughout this semi-final clash. On another day it may well have been York who emerged victorious, but it was not to be.

An understandably despondent captain, Tom Day, was still able to reflect on his side’s achievements this year: “Saying the lads are gutted is an understatement. We gave it our all and came so close, but that’s the cruelty or beauty of sport depending on which way you look at it. I feel extremely privileged to play alongside these lads; it’s the best team I’ve ever been a part of. The spirit of the team is honestly second to none. We will never forget this incredible journey.”

Despite the heartbreak of coming so close to a national final, the team must hold their head high for what has been an unprecedentedly successful season. Hopefully the foundations have been laid, and York futsal will continue to go from strength to strength.

York: Sim, Daly, Tringham, Hallas, Day (C), Briars, Brown, McCoy, Robinson.

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