The 2019 Men’s Football Varsity ended in a 0-0 draw after a fine string of saves from Warwick goalkeeper Ben Cole helped keep the tie goalless.
“Sha la la la Warwick FC!” rung around the floodlit Cryfield pitches before kick-off, as the Warwick faithful built an electric atmosphere for the eagerly anticipated fixture. Warwick captain Luke Pearce kicked off the tie with a trademark drop of the shoulder and pass out wide to fervent cheers from supporters, a hopeful indication of the midfield maestro dictating the game. Unfortunately, it was not to be.
The well-drilled Coventry side, who lined up in a similar 4-3-3 formation to Warwick, were aggressive from the opening stages and constantly closed down any space for Pearce and his midfield counter-part Ismael Olmedo. Following a tense few minutes, as neither side seemed to get a hold of the game, Coventry had the first real chance. Ed Davis swung in a corner that seemed to miss everyone in the box until it was headed back across the face of goal by centre-back Charlie Ward, only for the timely positioning of Pat Gibson, who cleared the ball to safety.
Warwick came into the fixture without their talismanic number nine
Much of the early engages between the two sides occurred down Warwick’s right flank and in the 8th minute, winger Ed Sideso whipped in an inviting delivery that just evaded the on-rushing Alex Bailey. Warwick came into the fixture without their talismanic number nine, Marius Benaudin, who missed the game with an ankle injury. His absence was evident as they lacked a spark in the final third, too often being dragged in to Coventry’s physical style of play. On the other end of the pitch, the composed defending of Thomas ‘Gucci’ Guichimere and Sam Tose halted Coventry from creating any threats of their own.
In a game where both teams continuously cancelled each other out, it was the fans that were making the occasion. First, as Warwick aimed to counter from a Coventry corner, forward Jay Bachelor, who ran the channels and worked tirelessly all game, beautifully held up a long ball by controlling it on his thigh, before sharply swiveling to volley a pass to the opposite wing, and only agonizingly missing the touch of Alex Bailey to go out for a throw-in. The crowd responded to that ingenious flair with affectionate chants of ‘Rooney’, due to the forward’s resemblance to the ex-Manchester United and England striker.
the game started to turn a bit feisty following a few crunching tackles
Moments later, Ben Cole pulled off his first of many outrageous saves of the evening. Coventry’s Ed Davis floated in a free kick and the sprawling Cole somehow kept out the dangerous Corey Parchment’s effort. Parchment looked to the sky in disbelief as the Warwick fans erupted in to chants of ‘Always Believe in Cole’. Little changed following the interval, as the game started to turn a bit feisty following a few crunching tackles from James Winsbury and Guichimere on the Coventry players. As the tackles were starting to fly in, Coventry skipper Charlie Ward was the first into the referee’s book after a late challenge on club-captain Winsbury.
Coventry started to force the issue to try and break the deadlock, with a couple of corners in quick succession, but more resolute defending from Guichimere helped keep out any real threat. Cole was then forced into another great save as he tipped round a Coventry free kick.
For the first time in the game, the crowd was stunned into silence
However, the following Coventry possession was undeniably the moment of the match. Charlie Holmes delivered a cross from the right flank that seemed to be slightly behind Lorenzo de Felice, before the Coventry attacker sweetly connected with an audacious bicycle kick from around 15 yards out that required an equally spectacular reaction save from Cole to keep it from thumping the back of the net. For the first time in the game, the crowd was stunned into silence as onlookers attempted to comprehend the unbelievable passage of play.
Yet, it was still Coventry that created the better chances. Ed Davis found himself one-on-one with Cole but the Warwick shot-stopper got a hand on his effort to keep his side in the game. In the 94th minute, Parchment, whose trickery and pace troubled the opposition all game, skillfully cut inside and following a deflection, the ball broke through for Jake Anthony, who was unable to convert as his effort hit the post.
It was some amazing keeping from Coley to keep us in there
Man-of-the-match Ben Cole described it as a “tough game against good position”, while centre half Guccimare claimed “Warwick were slightly lucky at the end” and “it was some amazing keeping from Coley to keep us in there”. Alvaro de la Vega, who recently captained the Warwick 4s, echoed a similar sentiment, judging that “We just did not test them enough. At least the team has a cup semi-final to look forward to next week and the lads will now turn their attention to another important game.”
Coventry’s star man Parchment also commented on the game, stating, “It was a good, tactical battle but ultimately both sides showed nerves as the occasion probably got to some players”. Without a definitive result, it surely felt like a loss for both teams, although Warwick have Cole’s heroics to thank for keeping up their unbeaten Varsity run against Coventry for another year.