Sussex University football’s 1st team have got their season off to a solid start with a 1-1 draw away to St. Mary’s University. On a damp, grey October afternoon a solitary goal from midfielder Dimal Luta in the first half was enough to earn Sussex a point. In a hard fought game, in which Sussex captain Tom Cannell was taken to hospital, stand in captain Bill Ward felt ‘we had more in the locker’ and was optimistic about the forthcoming season.

Stand in skipper Bill Ward holding St. Mary’s at bay. Photo: Rupert Connell

Stand in skipper Bill Ward holding St. Mary’s at bay. Photo: Rupert Connell

Following the graduation of a number of last years’ team, Sussex 1st boasted numerous freshers who all stepped impressively into their specific roles. Of particular note was young centre-half Joey Awaritefe, who had a commanding performance at the back and was correctly named as man of the match by his fellow team mates.

Sussex started tentatively and allowed St. Mary’s far too much possession in Sussex’s half; if it wasn’t for an excellent piece of goalkeeping by Sam Jeffery they could have conceded an early penalty. The only other positive early on for Sussex was the display of Sam Gittins, unfortunately his well weighted and searching passes were not utilised by the Sussex attack.

Just five minutes after the penalty incident Sussex took the lead through central midfielder Dimal Luta. Mow Magzoub’s deep cross from the right was met by Tom Wild at the back post, who controlled and managed to engineer a decent chip into the six yard box. George Gledhill popped up to head the ball in and Luta was on hand to hook it into the back of the net.

The goal invigorated Sussex and they began to play with confidence and assurance. Awaritefe and Cannell, the two centre-halves, started to play with composure and the former was particularly strong in the air. The central midfield partnership of Luta and Gledhill combined again to nearly score a second: Luta threaded a well weighted pass for Gledhill to sprint onto but only to be denied by a great save.

It was not all one way traffic though. A mix up at the back almost allowed St. Mary’s in and a strong hand from Jeffery made sure that a long range effort was tipped safely over the bar.

Sussex started the second half playing into a rough breeze that had picked up during the interval. This time however, St. Mary’s took the ascendancy with an early goal. Sussex may have felt aggrieved at conceding such a weak goal, especially seeing as it came from a disputed free-kick. The set piece was clearly over hit and had Jefferey back-pedalling; he could only tip it onto the bar, for an unmarked St. Mary’s striker to head into an open net. Less than five minutes later Sussex were lucky to still be drawing. An opposing striker had managed to sneak through and faced with a well positioned Jeffery, dragged his shot wide. Sussex were beginning to lose their sense of direction and were not making enough of large spaces in the middle of the park.

With just twenty minutes left the unfortunate incident involving Tom Cannell occurred when James Dowsett ended up smashing the back of his head into his captain’s right eye. Cannell went straight down and immediately both teams realised he was badly injured. Dowsett was fine and thankfully was able to continue.* Ward took the captain’s armband for the remainder of the game and this marked a Sussex revival in form and they finished strongly.

Both teams had played some hard, honest football and came away with a point. Sussex stand in skipper Ward said:

‘the result was fair. It is a decent start to the season; we could have nicked it but it wasn’t to be. We’ll take a point away from home.’

* The Badger wish Tom Cannell a swift recovery.

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