Every year the University of Exeter Men's Football Club face Exeter City to raise money for charity.

Exeposé report on the Football Varisty

Following a record attendance at the annual Football Varsity between the University of Exeter Men's Football Club and Exeter City, Exeposé news editor Owen Keating gives his report on an evening of goals at St James' Park.

Exeter City inflicted a heavy 6-0 defeat on the University of Exeter in the sixth annual Football Varsity match at St. James’ Park in front of a record crowd of 4,324. Despite immense commitment and effort from the University, they were undone by the slicker movement and passing of their professional counterparts.

Uni kicked off, and after a patchy opening few minutes, notable only for some imposing defence from uni captain Jesse Wilson, City soon took control of proceedings. A University free kick was cleared after three minutes, and from the resulting breakaway, Uni goalkeeper Nat Slack saved well after a low shot from Wales u-21 forward Elliott Chamberlain.

Uni were strong in the tackle, but were struggling to hold onto the ball in key areas, as City’s relentless pressing pressured the Uni midfield into regularly giving the ball away. Despite this carelessness in possession, Uni defended very well from City’s constant barrage of long balls, with centre backs Jesse Wilson and James Micklem being assertive under the high ball. Goalkeeper Nat Slack also showed good decision-making to punch clear after six minutes.

Uni were nearly undone again after fifteen minutes, when the defence switched off after a throw in and James Micklem had to stoop to clear the resulting cross. The first ten minutes passed by with Uni barely getting out of their half, but tenacious pressing kept City from inflicting too much damage. As a packed Big Bank stand roared on their Uni side, Slack excelled again with a fine point blank save from Tom Nichols after twelve minutes; the ball dropped to Nichols, who has played for City’s senior side, and Slack reacted excellently to deflect the ball after it skimmed through a crowd of bodies.

However, City’s pressure inevitably told, and they took the lead after seventeen minutes, when a neat passing move opened up space for Jake Gosling, who made no mistake in placing the ball into the top corner.

Uni nearly immediately found themselves two behind, as loose passing from the kick-off allowed City to break; Ollie Watkins cut in from the left, and it was only a fine diving save from Slack that stopped City’s advantage from doubling.

Despite the heavy pressure from City, Uni forced their first corner after nineteen minutes, but it came to nothing. From the resulting goal kick, City right back Aaron Dawson picked up the ball deep within his own half, and a slaloming run through a non-existent Uni midfield ended with him slamming the ball into the bottom right hand corner.

Uni had their first shot of the game after twenty five minutes, as Matt Langley blasted a long range free kick well into the boisterous Big Bank stand. The University had finally found a foothold, and passes started to go on the floor rather than into the stands as both sides settled into a more cohesive rhythm.

Ollie Watkins was still causing problems for the Uni defence, and when he was brought down by Jesse Wilson just outside the Uni area, Nat Slack did well to save Tom Nichol’s skiddy set piece; the ball bounced through the wall and Slack managed to turn the ball over the bar.

This was probably the University’s best spell of the game; Toby Yeates fired over after 38 minutes, and the University’s first corner came shortly after. As the game approached the half hour mark, the University’s relentless pressing of the City back four paid dividends, as the Uni forced a few throws deep in opposition territory. These came to nothing, but the Uni midfield had finally found their feet; neat movement between Scott Hobbs and Miles Blenkinsop created a few half chances, but the final ball was unfortunately lacking.

Despite this strong spell for the Uni team, City soaked up the pressure, and in first half stoppage time, effectively ended the game as a contest. Tom Nichols saw his shot parried by the impressive Nat Slack, but Ollie Watkins was on hand to steer home City’s third goal.

The second half kicked-off in much the same fashion as the first; scrappy passing was punctuated by full-blooded tackling and an over-reliance on long balls. The University were lucky to escape without further punishment in the 49th minute, when the ball was given away and only a great block from Jesse Wilson prevented City’s fourth goal.

The Uni had reverted to a 4-4-2 formation to start the second half, with Tom Faktor and Scott Hobbs shoring up the central areas of the pitch.

The University’s hardworking start to the half was unfortunately undone though, as neat build up play allowed winger Ollie Watkins into the box; he poked home from nine yards to score his second goal.

Despite Jesse Wilson heading wide from a corner in the 56th minute, City were now well on top, and they added their fifth goal just before the hour. A Uni clearance was closed down, and Tom Nichols reacted fastest, running onto the loose ball before calmly lifting the ball over the advancing goalkeeper.

The game entered a quiet period as sixty minutes came up on the clock, as both sides rotated their squads and settled into the half after a frenetic opening fifteen minutes. A free kick from Rob Fellingham drifted harmlessly wide, and the introduction of Nathan Blackie made the University a more potent attacking threat. Far from being disheartened, the Uni side kept harrying and hassling their professional opponents, unfortunately to no avail. Nichols hit the post for City, before Scott Hobbs’ jinking run ended with a long range shot which City keeper James Mitchison saved comfortably.

Tom Nichols again showed the class that has earned him first team appearances for Exeter City, as he added his side’s sixth and his second with a classy free kick that beat substitute goalkeeper Tim Salinger from 25 yards.

City continued to press as the Uni side tired, and Salinger did very well to save a deflected shot after 74 minutes, as well as doing well to parry George Rigg’s low drive from outside the box.

Despite this constant pressure, the Uni didn’t give up, and after forcing a corner on 87 minutes, seemed to cause City problems with their movement from the resulting corner, which bounced through the six yard box before being cleared.

As the crowds began to clear, Elliott Chamberlain rattled the Uni posts once more in stoppage time, bringing down the curtain on this year’s Varsity. The record crowd of over 4,000 students couldn’t be disappointed with their side’s effort; the Green Army may have been outclassed, but no-one could have accused them of being outfought.

Owen Keating, News Editor, Exeposé

Date: 3 October 2013

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