Our first game day was finally upon us. We weren’t kicking off against Örebro until 5pm so we had a strictly planned schedule for the rest of the day. We breakfasted and had a quick swim before heading over for a light training session. We went through our defensive strategies for the upcoming game and by the end were confident in our game plan. Back at the hotel we had lunch and then had another tactics-focused meeting with the aid of some video analysis. Finally it was time and we boarded the team bus to our first game of the championship.
The game started slowly with Örebro sitting back and giving York plenty of time on the ball. Possession wasn’t a problem but chances were few and far between for a while. Ash Daly had the first chance of the game, striking the bottom of the post from a quickly taken kick-in. Soon Alex Tringham seized the initiative and beat his man down the left flank, squaring the ball into the path of Dom Hallas’ perfectly timed run. The President made no mistake and prodded it past the keeper with a neat first-time finish to give York a 1-0 lead.
Frustration began to build though as York still weren’t quite clicking, combined with some inconsistent refereeing regarding the tackles being made by the Swedes. Tom Day epitomised York’s annoyance with a badly-timed covering challenge that saw the captain cautioned.
The scores were levelled in controversial circumstances leaving York feeling even more aggrieved. Jon Purdie was dispossessed by an Örebro player who came straight through the back of him to win the ball. It fell to a Swedish teammate who finished sublimely with rocket in off the post, but York were convinced Purdie had been fouled.
York were on edge for the rest of the half as the foul count rose to five. One more foul this half and the Swedes would be awarded a nine yard penalty for every subsequent foul. York clung on to half time where they could calm down and regroup.
Some tactical readjustments at the start of the second half saw the balance of play swing back in our favour.
Jonny Brown seized the lead for York as he was on hand to poach a saved shot from out wide. York continued to be resolute in defence, before extending their lead to 3-1 with a classic Tringham strike from a dragged back corner. Örebro upped the intensity and physicality in desperation. A late lunge from the Swedish No.9 resulted in a second yellow that left his side with only three outfield players for the next two minutes. They lifted the keeper out of necessity and both Daly, Tringham and Sim all had attempts on the empty goal and just missed.
Örebro were back to full numbers and had their keeper back in goal, when Tom Day sealed the victory. He collected a long throw from Sim with his back to goal on the left wing, somehow jinking passed two lunging defenders before cutting inside. His early shot beat the keeper and crept inside the far post into the side netting. The score was 4-1 and the game was all but over. The clock had stopped at six seconds- this time York were on the right end of a late goal!
We had got off to winning start courtesy of a brilliant second half performance. Spirits were high as we knew we were now guaranteed a spot in the last 16. Junior had spoken to the referees after the game who had been convinced we had some Brazilians playing, which should definitely be taken as a compliment!
On leaving the ground we ended up having photos taken with some of the competition helpers. It turns out we’ve become one of the crowd favourites, not least because they think myself, Freddie and Jonny look like members of One Direction!
We returned to the hotel and had a thorough cool down in the pool. The physical challenge of playing six games in six days meant we couldn’t risk any injuries, especially with our small squad. We ate and went to bed looking forward to our game the next day at 5pm. We’d got off to a great start, but the Croatians would offer a very different type of challenge.