First Team Recover After Poor Start To Season

Luke Barner (third from left) celebrates scoring the Uni's second goal against Sidmouth while manager Neil Saunders watches on.

Luke Barner (third from left) celebrates scoring the Uni’s second goal against Sidmouth while manager Neil Saunders watches on.

A tough first game for the EUAFC first team, an undeserved 3-0 loss against Alphington, was followed in quick succession by three more league games in the space of just six days.

The first fixture, an away trip to last year’s 4th place finishers St Martins, was always going to be a tough encounter. Despite being the underdogs, the first team began brightly, and had an early chance as Charlie Knibb was played through on goal within 10 minutes of kick-off, but could only fire wide. The first half saw both sides resort to playing long balls over the top due to the extremely dry conditions of the pitch. A single lapse of concentration in the midfield gave away the ball cheaply to St Martins who did well to capitalise and thus took an early lead; 1-0 at the 30-minute mark. The University still had time to equalise in the half, in which they did so from a well-placed Luke Barner free kick on the stroke of half time. The second half begin with the first team flying out of the blocks, as chances came in thick and fast. Sam Sainsbury came close with a header from a sublime cross from Knibb and captain Jamal Bartley hit the crossbar with another header. Despite sustained pressure from the team, they couldn’t break through and St Martins were rewarded for their resilience with an absolute wonder-strike which put them 2-1 in front. The Uni became desperate following this, and in pushing forward left themselves open on the counter, which led to another goal for the home side in the dying embers of the match. A second successive loss for the 1st team, although against very good opponents, meant improvements had to be made for the next fixture.

Just four days later the 1s were back in action, this time at home against Exwick Villa. The first team did manage to pick up their first point of the season against a young, dynamic and well drilled Exwick side. Both teams were pumped and ready for what turned out to be a nail-biting fixture, but Barner calmed University nerves with a beautiful finish from a Chris Cuba long ball to put the 1s ahead. In the second half however Exwick struck back, with a fantastic shot finding the bottom left of Uni goalkeeper Mark Roberts’ goal. However, the Uni took the lead again, this time through the captain Bartley, who curled a shot into the top corner after good link-up play from midfielders Michael Ayer and Matt Yeabsley. Unfortunately, the 1s conceded an agonising equaliser in the last few minutes of the game which tied it up 2-2, which is how the game ended. A well fought first point for the team, but they were left wondering what could have been.

Again, a short break of two days lead into the 1s most recent game, a home fixture versus Sidmouth Town. This was to be the 1s first win of the season, and was courtesy of two Barner goals, which took him to four for the season. The first came from a lovely long ball from Charlie Woodford, and the second from a great cross by winger George Bratt. Sidmouth got one back in the second half, but EUAFC should have scored more, with chances being wasted throughout the game. However, a great three points won means that the Uni recover to 12th position in the league with an ever-improving squad.