Written by Lewis Lord
It was a resounding three out of three wins for ULFC 2nd, 3rd and 4th men’s teams on what was a gorgeous sunny afternoon down at Stoughton Fields on Wednesday. Students from both UOL and DMU gathered in numbers to watch friends and fellow students battle it out over 90 minutes.
For players like myself, this is built up to be the highlight of our footballing year, and Wednesday certainly didn’t disappoint. Each game was full of entertainment and goals, with the 4th team winning 4-1 with a brace from James Dawson, while the 3rd team won an emphatic 6-0 victory thanks to a hat-trick from Aidan Ginns as well as a bullet header from Eddie Davies, a well worked team goal finished off by Luke Harrison and a penalty converted by crowd favourite Lucas Owers on his final ever ULFC game.
After those two games came to a climax, the attention turned to the 2nd team as hundreds of supporters gathered to watch the result of the game be decided in a penalty shootout after the game finished 2-2 with Kwadwo Twumasi grabbing both of ULFC’s goals.
Fittingly as well, it was Kwadwo who scored the winning penalty and sent the University of Leicester students into euphoria, as they celebrated the victory with a pitch invasion. Credit should go to the penalty takers from both teams, as scoring from 12 yards is no easy feat given all the eyes from the crowd that were watching.
One player who certainly wasn’t feeling the pressure, though, was ULFC goalkeeper Tomas Broder, who was the hero of the shoutout after saving two penalties in his first ever Varsity appearance. When I asked Broder if he was nervous at all during the shootout, he replied: “Not really, I’ve been involved in shootouts before in front of crowds so I’m used to it, and I knew what I had to do. Thankfully It’s helped the team win which is great!”
After a winning Wednesday at Stoughton, all eyes will turn to Beaumont Park on Monday night to see if the Women’s and Men’s first teams can follow suit and bring home the victories on what will be the final night of Varsity 2022. We can certainly expect a huge crowd of students in attendance for both matches and the atmosphere is anticipated to be electric.
Women’s first team captain, Amy Lafayette, spoke about how excited she is to lead her side in front of friends and fellow students: “I’ve been waiting a long time for Varsity so I’m more than excited to show to friends and students what my girls are capable of. We’ve been working really hard in the lead up for this as it means a lot to us, and now we’re ready to have fun, make the University of Leicester proud and show everyone what women’s football is all about.”
It seems the magnitude of such an occasion certainly has the potential to impact the performances of players, with Men’s first team defender and club captain Ryan Bailey saying: “As we saw from Wednesday’s games, the crowd is a massive factor, and as a player you have to be able to control your emotions by concentrating solely on what’s happening in front of you on the pitch” As one of the more senior players, and one of only a few who has played in a Varsity match before, Bailey also spoke of his role in helping the younger players deal with the occasion and focusing on the task at hand.
First team coach Nimesh Chinna has also spoken about the impact of the crowd and the occasion stating that “every year it’s the toughest game. I’m expecting a very close game” Having been unbeaten in 2022 however, with standout victories against De Montfort and league champions Cambridge in their final 2 BUCS games, Nimesh feels like his side is going into the game at full strength, saying: “I’m positive we will finish the season on a high.”
One player who will certainly be hoping to carry his good form into such a massive fixture is 1st team Men’s captain Andre Lawrence. Lawrence, who netted twice to relegate rivals DMU just a few weeks ago, is certainly in the mood for more on Monday night, and told me: “I’m always confident in my ability regardless of location or opposition. I’m buzzing for Monday night.”
UOL students, who will be down in numbers to support the women’s and men’s teams at 17:30 and 19:15 respectively, will certainly be hoping to see some of the same heroics they witnessed on Wednesday afternoon at Stoughton, but this time on away territory.