Warwick Secure Varsity

Varisty culminated in circumstances only befitting of an unadulterated sports series…with a high octane penalty shootout concluding proceedings. It may have seemed wrong for a football finale to be played out at a prominent Coventry rugby venue, yet the electric atmosphere cleansed spectators of any doubts, that football was a more than worthy conclusion to one of the tightest varsity contests in recent years.

When arriving at the venue, on one of a fleet of buses carrying eager spectators to the Butts arena, the anticipation and tension were palpable. Stepping out to see a lively, raucous wave of nearly 2000 flood lit spectators, split in to an academic apartheid, between respective Coventry and Warwick fans, was inspiring and indicative of the unifying power sport and an accessible, universally embraced sport such as football, can bring to university life. Before the night was over, nobody was in any doubt of the severity of the occasion and the passion invested by fans and players alike, with lively exchanges between the opposing fans, with injections of rhetorical megaphone nitrous.

The UWMFC was fortunate enough to be graciously embraced by our fellow clubs, notably CMD, Hockey, Cheer leading society and many others, all of whom made vocal contributions with added spice and a sense of humor. The Warwick fans were a well oiled machine of song, led by the inspiring oratory of a sartorially elegant Max Mallen, whose enthusiasm worked the crowd into a football frenzy, guiding people lovingly like a religious chieftain, through the holy football hymn sheet bibles provided by Club Captain Leo Harris.

The game was as expected a tense affair, with both teams adopting defensive formations. The pitch, which was evidently designed for less gracious sports, proved an obstacle to Arsenal-esque, free flowing attacking football. Both teams had to adopt a piercing long ball tactic, attempting to penetrate one another’s defenses with channel balls on the extremely wide pitch, which proved a physical endurance challenge in itself. The ensuing aerial battle had not been seen in Coventry since the RAF took on the Luftwaffe. Both sets of center backs, admirably defended their lines, with Gareth Roberts, Chaz Bans Lartey, Shaun Birch, and Tom Whittle, physical and commanding at the back, showing the type of commitment that elevated them to league champions the week previously. The commitment was such, that in one exchange, Shaun Birch sustained a severe broken nose, receiving prolonged medical assistance at the side of the pitch, highlighting his willingness to bleed for the cause if necessary. To replace the wounded soldier, Malta’s under 21’s international Andrew “Minky” Amato was added, providing blistering attacking pace and neurotic concern for Coventry’s right side. An equally brave Sam Longden of Malawi, strong throughout, showed stoicism, continuing despite concussion for a large duration of the game, yet remaining resilient.

Despite persistent pressure and probably the greater share of possession, Warwick were unable to break the deadlock, with Coventry borrowing one of Warwick’s transportation buses and parking it in front of goal. The second half was an equally tense affair, with Coventry providing some testing in swinging crosses, that called in to action all of the infamous handling skill of Goalkeeper Christian Solomson. The addition of Lewis Treacy and the Physical Goliath Simon Olsson, added an energy infusion of both strength and pace…maxi muscle meets redbull. Heart throb and renowned stud Derek Quaye exhibited the menacing dribbling and pricking pace that has made him the anti Christ of many a defence this year, going close on several occasions. Despite a late flicker of hope for Coventry, with a speculative effort that shaved the bar of the Warwick goal, the result was almost, with a sense of fatalism, inevitability, penalties.

Players embraced on the half way line in solidarity. Coventry stepped up for the first penalty and it was impressively saved by the Nordic Warwick keeper. However, officials determined he had vacated his line, and enforced a rule rarely acknowledged anymore in the game. The retake was scored. The Warwick contingent, although admittedly nervous, showed great professionalism and dispatched their penalties with precision and power, sending the instinct deprived Coventry keeper the wrong way on every occasion. Warwick’s keeper suffered no such affliction, coming close several times, and finally, dramatically, parrying a stinging effort wide to Coventry’s dismay. The exodus of the home stand began. In true Hollywood style Dave “ginge” Holmes, first team captain and respected club figure, executed a crushing final blow sending players and fans alike into nirvana. Finally the 90 minutes of sustained tension was relieved, and the ensuing pitch invasion and player bundle, led to the third injury sustained on the night, a black eye for Benji Thompson, with a knee to the eye from his own player. Luckily medics were on hand, and prescribed the player with a champagne drip and shower for pain relief, which other players equally embraced.

The night had been a triumph. It was for many players the closing chapter on a 3 year commitment to the club, not to mention a huge investment in promoting and executing the finale to such a high standard. The final penalty may have been scored by one man, yet the victory belonged to the team, the club, the fans and the whole university, and was a fitting tribute to a club that has progressed forward so positively and found new campus appeal, under the stewardship of club captain Leo Harris.


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