UEL Claim Narrow Victory

Bill Martin reports, after a tense afternoon for UEL Men's 1st XI at home to rivals Hertfordshire

A hat-trick from Amadou Kassarate saw UEL come out 3-2 winners at home to rivals Hertfordshire (Herts), and extend their lead to five points over Reading in the BUCS South Eastern 1A.

Early Pressure

Herts kept control of the early stages, as stand-in goalkeeper Stephen McGinn made a smart stop to keep the scores level inside the first five minutes, as UEL struggled to get out of their own half. A heart in mouth moment almost saw UEL concede when a corner eluded McGinn and his defence and fell to a Hertfordshire defender who accidentally cleared the ball off the line, and the rebound struck off the post.

The home side eventually grew into the game as they pushed further up the field, with Kassarate and Abdul Salami heading chances over the bar. Later on, Charles Brown had UEL’s best chance of the game, forcing his way through the Herts’ midfield, only to see his fierce right-footed drive to be turned round the post by the keeper.

Against the run of play,  Herts took the lead from a corner that saw UEL fail to clear as it was collected beautifully by the Herts full-back, side stepping Salami and slotting past McGinn, for a 1-0 lead.

Swift Turn Around

Calamity almost struck moments later, as a defensive howler from defender Cameron Reardon forced McGinn into a smart stop. McGinn’s save turned defence into attack, as UEL swept up the pitch, with Kassarate  hacked down inside the Herts’ box. UEL equalised when Kassarate converted the resulting kick straight down the middle, leaving the Herts’ goalkeeper diving the wrong way.

UEL quickly turned the game on its head when great link up play between Brown and Kassarate, saw the striker played straight through, keeping his composure to slot the ball past the on-rushing Herts’ keeper.

An hour into the game, and Hertfordshire gave away another penalty. This time the Herts’ defender handled the ball in the box and received a yellow card for his troubles. Once again, Kassarate slotted away from 12-yards, doubling UEL’s leads, and completing his hat-trick

However, poor defending from UEL saw Herts manage to pull a goal back a few minutes later. A low driven free-kick deflected off a Herts’ player, and left McGinn stranded in the goal mouth, as UEL were forced to sweat out the final few minutes.

‘We Coped Well’

Speaking to Coach Ryan Gordon after their win, he heaped praise on his squad’s performance, claiming, he was always confident of victory.

“We played them a few weeks ago, our first game of the season, and we were unlucky to get a 2-1 loss. We came here with a point to prove to ourselves, rather than get revenge. It was more about the performance, how we coped with their long balls, because they’re (Hertfordshire) very direct. So once we organised ourselves and kept our shape, I was confident in our ability to keep playing the football we’ve been working on”.

Coach Gordon also brought to light the strength in depth that UEL possess, particularly in goal, with make-shift keeper McGinn starting the game.

“We’ve got good players, from the back four, including the goalkeeper, the midfield and the forwards. I was really pleased with Steve McGinn, who stood  in as goalkeeper, usually a centre back, but he’s done himself justice with a quality performance. Mentally, he’s tough and all the boys coped well today”

UEL  extended their lead at the top of the table to five points as second-placed Reading weren’t in action. The Blues next fixture will be a cup game, with the team travelling away to Oxford University on the 22nd November.