Langwith and Halifax Firsts met on a wintry morning threatening rain and sun to contest the final of the Men’s Football Varsity Qualifiers. A tightly knit opening ten minutes was played out in the boggy centre third, with dynamic and determined work from both sides. Langwith’s 14 squandered the first chance of the game, translating a well-placed through ball into a hastily taken shot that went wide of the net.
With the shooting seal broken, a flurry of creative attack was Halifax’s best form of defence, with Captain Heath putting in solid goalwards charges to advance the arena of play into Langwith’s half. Birtles and Johnson assisted in scaling up the pace of play and placing pressure on Langwith’s back line. Langwith soon responded in turn, with Hamill sending a well-timed but unlucky shot onto and over the crossbar after a fast break.
Halifax were quick to turn play over again, but wasted another strong break. Three successive attempts on goal in the 16th minute went unrewarded, as did two subsequent corners given in their favour. Organic and finessed play in the centre of field came at the cost of hasty control upfront, with Halfiax’s Crouchy losing more balls than he won.
Langwith, quick to exploit Halifax errors, were rewarded with the first goal of the game in the 21st minute – a neat assist from Gohil was seen past the keeper by Chiweshe, with the help of a fumble on the goalline. A second shortly followed, courtesy of a well placed strike to the bottom corner of Halfiax’s goal by Parsonson – 2-0 Langwith.
Pace picked up rapidly on both sides, with Gohil managing the left wing competently for Langwith with the help of Number 18 and 14. Langwith’s 14 held the left back position firmly, consistently playing Halifax Birtles out of the game. Halifax were anything but disillusioned by the Langwith swing however; they worked cohesively and determinedly into the dying minutes of the first half, and were rewarded with a goal in the final play.
The second half began with reinvigorated force and fire, with everything to play for. Halifax levelled the scoreline almost immediately following consistent pressure and a boost in organisation that allowed Bore to ease a ball past Langwith’s keeper. Halifax sustained the pressure on a languishing Langwith, far quieter and less at ease in the second half; their few chances were teased out of errors by an increasingly dominant Halifax.
A well placed cross by Crouchy, far more composed following the break, was squandered as Halifax began to tire – their lack of substitutes became increasingly visible on the field. Heath was instrumental in consistently penetrating the Langwith half, orchestrating offensive lines with ease, and the side was given a new lease of life by a goal from Bore, who turned and recieved with expert control to strike for top corner – 3-2 Halifax.
Langwith seemed perturbed but did their best to sustain pressure. An injury for Number 9 brought Chiweshe back into play, who injected some much needed pace back into their attack; he was quick to win a penalty, which Parsonson saw in with flair. Three goals apiece with ten minutes to go, and both sides returned with renewed vigour – a physical closing phase ensued with Halifax forming the most chances, but the whistle brought with it the prospect of a penalty shoot-out for a place in Varsity.
A dramatic exchange of shots, and three heroic saves from Halifax’s keeper, stole victory from Langwith, who failed to sink a single spot kick. Langwith brought the stronger individual performances to the final, with Chiweshe’s dynamism a firm highlight, but it often came at the cost of team coherency; Halifax by contrast channelled their strongest displays into a steely offensive alround, and deserved the win for their determined fightback alone.
Langwith Firsts: David Vasiliu, Harrison Johnson, Ben Hudson, Tom Leach, Tom Benney, Dyaus Gohil (C), Jack Parsonson, Miguel Vidal, Charles Chiweshe, Harjeet Ahluwalia, Abraham Eniraiyetan
Subs: Matt Mrton, Matt Hamil
Halifax Firsts: Basu, Birtles, Chasteauneuf, Howarth, Johnson, Ellis, Bore, Meckin, Heath (C), Matharu, Brearing
Player of the match: Bore