Manchester Men’s First XI 3-1 Loughborough Men’s First XI
Loughborough arrived at the Armitage Centre sitting at the top of the Premier North table with maximum points gained from their opening two games. But after an extraordinary second-half fightback, Manchester earned a memorable victory over last season’s runaway champions.
It was Manchester who made the better start of the sides, as an early chance fell to Gregory, who perhaps should have shot earlier after a weaving run from the left. But as the half progressed, Loughborough began to impose themselves on the game with Emmerson impressing in the number ten role. With twenty minutes on the clock, his fizzing drive from twenty-five yards was palmed over acrobatically by Heltrop in the Manchester goal. Emmerson swung the resulting corner in to the back post, and striker Cook missed a point blank header to give Loughborough the lead.
Despite resolute defending from Manchester’s backline, it was Loughborough who broke the deadlock with thirty minutes played. Midfielder Elliott floated a searching ball from the left towards the back post, where Emmerson was unmarked to prod home.
Manchester responded well to going behind, as just a few minutes later Kolonas fed Gregory, who again used his pace to beat the Loughborough backline, only to see his shot rebound off the inside of the left post. In the final action of the first half, Emmerson was once again the catalyst for his side sending a teasing free-kick into the Manchester area, but none of his team-mates could connect.
The teams re-emerged for the second half, and Manchester immediately stepped up their game as they pressed for an equaliser. Striker Botham, often isolated in the first half, was unlucky to see his shot blocked from the edge of the area, while Hall combined well with Kolonas but skewed his shot wide. Though Loughborough did not dominate as they had the first half, they did have chances themselves, with Webb’s jinking run dealt thwarted only by a combination Manchester’s Kelly and captain Osho.
Manchester grabbed a deseved equaliser with just under fifteen minutes remaining. Striker Botham received possession with his back to goal, turned and evaded two defenders and slipped it through to Hall, who smashed the ball into the top left corner.
With Loughborough clearly rattled, Manchester took full advantage and scored another within three minutes. Hall was scorer-turned-provider, as after a great run down the right flank, his floated cross found Botham unmarked, who nodded in to the jubilation of his team.
Manchester wrapped up the win with a third goal just minutes later. A seemingly innocuous throw-in was left by both Loughborough centre-backs, allowing Manchester substitute Hornby to steal in, round the keeper, and finish.
With a fantastic win under their belts, Manchester will be hoping to exhibit their clinical second-half performance on a more regular basis. Having earned just a point from their previous three games, the boys in purple will now look to kick-start their campaign in what is clearly a very tight division.