This weekend’s dress rehearsal for one of the Varsity Qualifiers’ football semi-finals saw Derwent take on Alcuin in the Revolution Premier Division.
Despite the eventual score, the game start ominously for the Owls with Derwent finding a good rhythm to their passing. Sam Weighall slid a clever ball through to Joe Easter who, under pressure from Owls ‘keeper Richardson, could only poke the ball narrowly wide.
However the general tone of the match soon started to present itself. Derwent struggled to break through a well drilled Alcuin side, who themselves looked dangerous on the break – Cameron McLarty forcing a good save from Charlie Cooper in the Derwent goal.
Derwent’s only hope appeared to be individual quality, and this was almost enough to break the deadlock at one point. Andy Naylor swung an inch perfect ball into the Alcuin penalty box from 30 yards, but winger Henry Ferrao could not provide the finish that the pass deserved.
Soon after, Cooper saved his side’s blushes for a second time, when Derwent were static whilst calling for offside. Sarin Carver found himself alone with the ball, and drove towards the Derwent box, only to run into an onrushing Cooper who cleared.
Alcuin nearly took the lead soon after. Midfielder Turner received the ball from a corner, cut inside his man and whipped a fierce shot centimetres wide of the far post, much to the delight of a scrambling Cooper.
The half-time whistle brought an end to a stochastic first half, but upon the restart, the game started to open up, bringing chances and goals.
McLarty came close to breaking the deadlock within five minutes of the second half. Derwent committed too many men forward and were caught out by a lightning Alcuin break. McLarty found himself alone running at Cooper, but Mark Askham had sprinted back and tackled superbly to deny the Alcuin forward a simple finish.
The scare seemed to spur Derwent into life, and a moment of quality between Josh Bew and Joe Easter gave Derwent the lead. Some intricate passing saw the ball come to Bew, who played a quick one-two with Joe Easter and curled calmly into the bottom corner.
Taking the lead sparked the game into life, if only temporarily. No sooner had the game restarted, Derwent attacked and should have had a second but for some brave defending from Alcuin – a chaotic goalmouth scramble seeing Weighall, Naylor and Bew all failing to convert.
The Owls pegged Derwent back, and equalised within five minutes of Derwent going ahead. A corner, which was poorly dealt with by Derwent, bounced in front of Alcuin midfielder McConnell whose acrobatic effort took a deflection off Derwent captain Ryan Gwinnett and nestled in the bottom corner.
An equaliser was no less than Alcuin deserved at this point and only stayed that way due to a questionable refereeing decision. A Derwent corner was met by Sam Weighall, whose header seemed to go over the line. However, once Alcuin cleared, the referee did not signal for a goal and the scores remained level.
Despite their impressive performance, the Owls were to come away with nothing, as Derwent stole all three points with only minutes remaining. Euan Bell, a late change after Mike Whittall went off injured, received the ball on the right hand side. In acres of space, Bell hit a speculative drive from 25 yards, which bounced awkwardly in front of Richardson and found its way into the far side of the net, sending the onlooking Derwenters into raptures.
Captain Ryan Gwinnett had the opportunity to add some gloss to the score line after being released by a good reverse from Bew, but his delicate lob struck the bar.
Speaking to Nouse after the game, Alcuin skipper Peter Kennick was positive despite the loss. “For Halifax to be beaten 6-2 by that team last week and for us only to be beaten 2-1 showed a lot of character, a lot of spirit. There wasn’t enough attacking flare, but we do have that when we’re not under so much pressure.”
Derwent captain Ryan Gwinnett was in no mood to praise his team even though they had secured three points, and extended their impressive unbeaten run. “I’m pleased that we won, but we were absolutely awful together. We set out to put a marker down for College Cup, but to beat Alcuin 2-1 is not a marker.” However, Gwinnett indicated that he is hopeful for the future of his team, commenting, “We had a good team out, we’ll get used to playing with each other and hopefully we’ll improve on the performances to go with the result.”
Derwent: Cooper (GK), Askham, Belshaw, Shelbourn, Whittall, Naylor, Easter, Ferrao, Gwinnett (C), Weighall, Bew. Subs: Ingham, Bell.
Alcuin: Richardson, Houlgate, Pickar, Perera, Kennick, Turner, Barrie, McConnell, Garn, Fernando, McLarty. Subs: Southwell, Carver, Hargate.