Vanbrugh leave it late to snatch a gusty victory from gutsy Alcuin

Alcuin 1sts   3 – 4    Vanbrugh 1sts

Fernando (2)              Brennan

Twinn                        Watkins

Lund (2)

Vanbrugh edged out Alcuin in a 4-3 victory after a flurry of second-half goals provided a tantalising end to a match otherwise overshadowed by the gusty conditions over at Heslington East.

It took until the third minute for Vanbrugh to assert their authority over the game, with Polts flicking a header on from the front post leaving it up to Brennan to tap the ball into the net.

The wind and a pair of nervy defences proved to be a potent mix as chances came and went for both teams. Long balls over the top were allowed to bounce, giving Polts a great chance to add his own name to the scoresheet. Vanbrugh seemed content to rest on their laurels for the moment, allowing Alcuin into the game. They would soak up pressure and then attack with pace, mostly through Sarin who caused Vanbrugh a lot of problems down the left in the first half. Alcuin would reap the rewards of their fast, fluid, counter-attacking play with a piercing through-ball down the left to Sarin, who slid it across the box to McConnell who was lucky to be shoved off the ball to the ground and win a penalty as his team’s ability to test the keeper had been suspect so far. It was up to Fernando to cooly slot the ball home, sending the keeper the wrong way, to level the score five minutes from half-time.

The equaliser drove Alcuin on, they would build quickly after each Vanbrugh attack broke down, linking midfield to attack competently but unfortunately their finishing was lacking, otherwise Vanbrugh could have been punished for the space allowed to Alcuin down the flanks. Alcuin would have been disappointed that half-time came as quickly as it did, despite the first-half being a scrappy affair, largely due to the windy conditions, Vanbrugh seemed unable to deal with the pace that Alcuin displayed on the break.

The half-time break appeared to be exactly what Vanbrugh needed to get themselves back in the game, as they scored another goal soon after kickoff. Lund, who played well today, squared the ball to Carruthers who lifted the ball high and over the keeper towards the back post where Watkins escorted the ball over the line to regain the lead for Vanbrugh.

The effects of the weather during the game were best presented by a Vanbrugh freekick from substitute Picknell which was lofted high in the air before violently swinging to the left and eventually turning back on itself. Not quite a Roberto Carlos-esque effort, but you get the idea.

It was in the second half that Fernando really stepped up for Alcuin to make sure that they kept their foothold in the game that they so far had battled hard to keep. Firstly, a shot from outside the box, that sailed over the bar by a couple of inches, and then a swirling, wind-assisted free kick that was just tipped away by the sprawling Vanbrugh goalkeeper into the path of Twinn who buried it in the bottom right hand corner of the goal to tie the game up at 2 goals apiece.

Again, the wind would have picked up another three fantasy league points for the assistance given in the next goal. Alcuin’s Pickar, under no pressure, attempted to clear an abandoned long ball into the box, swung a clumsy leg at it, allowing the ball to bounce up and strike his hand. To the despair of the Alcuin bench, a penalty was awarded, which was swiftly converted by Lund.

Fernando was not quite done yet, though, endeavouring to give Alcuin yet another chance to get something out of this game, with a thunderous strike from outside the box, clinking against the right post and back across and into the goal to again level the score, this time at 3-3.

Southwell was a great second half addition for Alcuin, providing a more direct attacking outlet, causing Vanbrugh all sorts of problems at the back. However, it was Vanbrugh who would snatch a late winner against the run of play, with Tabas sending a cross into the box which was duly converted by Lund to surprisingly little celebration from Vanbrugh. The only confirmation that the goal did indeed stand was the resulting kick-off and the dejected look on the faces of the Alcuin players at the sound of the final whistle.

Kennick, Alcuin’s captain, had this to say: “We are devastated. We had some great chances to win towards the end, of course the wind was a big factor today.” Vanbrugh’s captain, Lund, acknowledged: “We struggled to keep the ball up top, [Alcuin] looked dangerous on the break but I’m happy with the performance as we are looking to finish ahead of Alcuin and Goodricke this year.”

Despite being on the losing side, Fernando’s second-half performance was man-of-the-match worthy. One of the only players to stand out in today’s blustery midday fixture, often looking dangerous and keeping his side interested and the match interesting, not to mention his two goals and assist.

MOTM: Fernando (Alcuin)

Alcuin: Richardson, Kennick, Pickar, Perera, Barrie, Houlgate, McConnell, Sarin, Twinn, Fernando, McLarty. Subs: Southwell, McClellan, Armstrong.

Vanbrugh: Ford, Tabas, Paulas, Brennan, Granville, Siddle, Carruthers, Lund, Polts, Watkins, Dunkley. Subs: Picknell.