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The Lancaster Men’s first XI started their 2014 campaign with a resounding 4-1 victory over Liverpool University. The victory showed great determination and tactical astuteness and will hopefully provide a platform from which we will push for promotion this season. A Rob Turner brace, accompanied by two smart finishes from wingers’ Jamie Lovatt and Arron Martindale secured victory on a damp Wednesday afternoon.
The opening exchanges of the game were a scrappy affair. Undoubtedly, the conditions served as a major factor for this as we often conceded possession within the marshy centre circle. With players keen to state their commitment within the early minutes, the slick surface provided the idyllic opportunity for some firm slide tackles. As a result, both sides struggled to retain possession and get a foothold in the game.
Around the quarter hour mark we grew into the game as a team, gelling together to construct some promising attacking moves. It became quickly apparent that our most dangerous threat would come from wing play, as both Lovatt and Josh Donnelly troubled their opposing full-backs with quick feet and bursts of acceleration.
After a prolonged spell of pressure we finally made our breakthrough. Having doggedly won the ball in the midfield, Callum Douglas emerged with possession. Making use of his right winger Donnelly, he continued his run down the flank. Quick feet around the Liverpool penalty area saw the ball pulled back smartly to feed “The Bear” Rob Turner for his first of many in the league this year.
Within a minute however, Liverpool were level. A direct ball from kick off was sprayed in behind our defence into the path of the Liverpool winger. The early cross caught the defence by surprise and proved too hot to handle for the big Frenchman Pier Aguillon; who opted to punch. The clearance looked to have removed any immediate danger, before it fell kindly at the feet of the Liverpool striker whose deflected shot squeezed past an unlucky Aguillon.
With plenty of time left in the first half, we sought to regain our lead and abolish any more collective lapses in concentration. As the battle continued in the centre of the park, a sharp pass from Captain Greg Rudkins-Stow moved the team up the field. Play progressed across the middle of the pitch before the ball squirted out of a ruck to the feet of Jamie Lovatt. The winger, whose desire to put goals to his name is undeniable, opted to strike the ball first time; 25 yards out. The Liverpool keeper was as surprised as anyone to see the speculative curling strike fly in into the net. The goal was met with deserved celebration… although no-one was quick to emulate Jamie’s swan dive on the boggy turf – too keen.
The second half showed a transition from the raw enthusiasm of the first 45 into a more composed level-headed display. Centre backs Sam Powell and James Attwood dealt with the numerous long balls thrown at our penalty area efficiently, allowing debutant left-back Alex Williams to move possession forwards as a counter attack. Despite allowing Liverpool the majority of possession, the defence remained resilient and we looked increasingly threatening on the break, as legs began to tire. The pace of Douglas through the middle and Martindale, as a fresh replacement on the left, was a consistent worry for Liverpool.
The third goal came on the hour mark. As the ball bounced loose in the centre, we won a foul 30 yards from goal. A quick free kick, credited to the sharp awareness from my midfield counterpart Callum Skinner, released Martindale before Liverpool had an opportunity to react. Martindale rounded the helpless keeper and slotted into an empty net to provide a two goal cushion. Douglas was particularly unlucky not to have a goal to show for his performance. After breaching the defensive ranks late on, the centre forward opted to lob the keeper only to see his shot rebound off the crossbar.
Rob Turner capped off a solid opening performance with a textbook turn and volley 6 yards from goal. Effective wing play from sub Domingo Pérez resulted in some frantic goalmouth action as we pushed to finish with a flourish. Having shielded the bouncing ball from his marker, Turner dispatched any remaining Liverpool hopes with a clinical finish.
Next week’s tie is an away fixture in Warrington against the University of Chester, where the team will be striving to string back-to-back results together in a bid to secure a spot at the summit of the table.