BUCS Northern Conference Plate First Round

Keele University Seconds 3

(Joe Gaisford, John Romano, Ignas Maculiatis)

York St John Sevenths (I2I Academy White & Yellow) 2

(Jimmy Iskandar, Nikko Kolintzas)

Attendance: 3 (approx. headcount)

Keith Harrison Sports Park (3G)

October for many students means one thing, the start of the BUCS league for the new season. For me, I have played BUCS Squash during my undergraduate years and when I wasn’t playing I was usually supporting my team mates. However BUCS for me in recent years has meant watching the Solent University football teams on a Wednesday afternoon. I didn’t miss a single home first team fixture for Solent last season and with my new venture as a postgraduate at Coventry University I certainly expected to be seeing them at some point this month.

But for some reason my first experience of 2017/18 BUCS football came from Keele University.

I grew up just three miles from the university and with both parents, my nan and myself all working on campus at one point the place really has played a big part in my life and for my family. I had decided to come home for a couple of days due to having no lectures on Wednesday. It was a good chance to catch up with family and make a start on my first assignment. After visiting my nanna in the morning and driving past Keele Uni to get home, I really couldn’t resist pulling in and soaking in some afternoon sport.

I parked in the village and walking over to the sports centre where it was a festival of sport. Various men’s and women’s rugby, lacrosse, football and quidditch was taking place outside and had I ventured inside I may have been treated to futsal, basketball or squash should any of those teams being playing at home.

I have fond memories of playing in the staff summer and winter football cups during my time working at the university as well as seeing some Newcastle Town pre season friendlies many seasons ago. I have also seen Keele International Cup games at this venue, as well as watching the Keele varsity versus Staffordshire University on a few occasions at neutral grounds in the local area.

The sports centre has faced a massive redevelopment since I was last there. A brand new 3G pitch has been installed, along with a beach volleyball area and some more multi purpose courts.

It really does look smart and it is great to see some money being pumped into the facility as sport plays a massive part in a students time at whichever university they attend.

I managed to catch the second half of the men’s fourth team as they lost 2-1 to University of Cumbria third team. I saw no goals and it was a drab affair.

I headed back to the main pitch (the new 3G) at the end of the fourths game just in time for the second team’s cup game with York St John 7ths.

I say the seventh team but after picking up some information from the cameraman, they are a team made of American soccer scholars representing the I2I Soccer Academy playing under the York name. I assume they play for the academy and pick up their degree from York at the same time. Much like the sport scholarship programmes over in the USA.

A team of former Premier League players Richard Cresswell, Jonathan Greening and Bryan Hughes as well as other former pros Michael Ingham and Andy McMillan, coaches the I2I academy.

This particular team were called the yellow and whites and are coached by McMillan but I am not sure what this represents and what other teams there are.

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The Ground

The Keith Harrison Sports Ground opened in April 2016 and named after the former men’s football coach who sadly passed away in 2015.

The £1.7 million upgrade saw the installation of the full size football pitch as well as redeveloping some of the tennis courts for beach volleyball and training areas on an artificial surface.

It certainly has rejuvenated the sports centre and the 3G pitch is a neat facility for the university, who can play BUCS games there as well as fulfil their Staffs County Football League fixtures with the small seated stand and floodlights.

The small seated stand probably holds around 30 spectators with uncovered standing stretching just down one length of the pitch should the seated stand be full.

Opposite the stand are two large plastic dugouts branded with the Keele logo and looking very smart and new.

The away side had brought a cameraman from WP Sport Performance with them who had set up his own platform for his camera but apart from that there is very little to describe.

One small issue was the netting that divides the pitch in half offers a small obstruction from the seating area but on a dry day like today I found myself stood further down the touchline anyway.

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The Game

Keele University 2nds progressed to the next round of the BUCS Northern Conference Plate with a narrow 3-2 win over York St John 7ths.

York twice took the lead either side of half time through Jimmy Iskandar and Nikko Kolintzas, however two goals in the final 13 minutes for the hosts was enough to go into the next round.

It was Kolintzas who had the first real chance of the game when his low drive from the edge of the box was spilled by the Keele ‘keeper before being collected at the second attempt.

Some great build up play by Nick Walker and Kolintzas on 18 minutes gave York the lead through Iskandar who was calm to take a touch inside the area, open up his body and sweep the shot past the oncoming goalkeeper.

York were certainly having the rub of the green in the opening exchanges with Kolintzas again trying his luck from distance but the Keele number one was equal to the shot.

Keele’s first glimpse on goal came from the nimble left-winger who forced a great near post save from Gemeiner at the near post following a flick on from John Romano. However with Gemeiner unable to hold the shot, the ball was nudged back to him and he picked it up, forcing the referee to award an indirect free kick in the area for the home side.

From the set piece, Romano saw his low drive hit the wall on the line and trickle out for a corner.

York’s Conley Hochstetler saw his shot on the bounce land into the ‘keepers hands from just inside the area.

Keele’s best chances were coming from long balls aimed at Romano who laid the ball off to captain Joe Gaisford who fizzed his low shot just wide of the area.

The hosts did find the equaliser on 35 minutes as Gaisford bundled in from close range after Gemeiner had done well to parry away the first shot from distance.

As half time approached, Keele’s tricky winger on the left collected the ball, cut inside and fired a shot at goal, forcing a strong save from the York shot stopper Gemeiner.

With the scores all level at the start of the second half, both sides had chances to take the lead, Keele’s 26 by far the most threatening player for the home side.

Hochstetler had another shot go just wide before York had the ball in the back of the net with Kolintzas and Iskandar combining for the goal scorer to dink the ball into the corner of the net, only for the flag to be up for offside.

The visitors did take the lead when Walker swung in a cross that went straight to Iskandar on the far side. The number seven put the ball back into the area for Kolintzas who was unmarked in the six-yard area to tap his shot into the back of the net.

Keele went close to pulling the scores level with some good skill from the home winger to squeeze a cross into the box but Romano couldn’t convert the chance.

On 77 minutes, Keele did level the scores again when a cross came in from the left side and Romano drilled his header into the back of the net with little pressure from the York defence.

With two minutes left and extra time looming, Cowan was dispossessed on the half way line and Keele attacked on the break with the ball played into Ignas Maculiatis slotting the ball past Gemeiner with a calm one-on-one effort to send Keele into the next round.

2017/18 Games: 34

2017/18 Grounds: 31 (9)

Total Grounds Visited: 181 (51)

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