Hartpury begin title defence with a win
The Hartpury Junior Academy U19s began the defence of their ECFA Colleges title with a hard fought win against West Suffolk on Wednesday.
The Hartpury team selected for the season opener showed no fewer than 10 changes from the side that were victorious in last years final, with midfielder Nick Hancock the sole representative from the 2010 champions. Despite this large turnover of personnel, Hartpury began the game in a cohesive fashion, buoyed by a successful pre-season programme which featured encouraging wins against Exeter City and East Berkshire College.
Midfielder Brett James had the game’s first sight of goal, racing onto Ashley Malcolm’s ball before shooting just wide of the far post. At the other end defender Josh Marsh had to react quickly to block Prigg’s shot on the edge of the box as West Suffolk also looked threatening in the early stages. On 10 minutes some strong running from striker Dan Holloway won a throw in for Hartpury deep inside the West Suffolk half. Hancock hurled the ball into the area and with the West Suffolk clearance only reaching the edge of the box Brett James capitalised, firing in an exquisite half volley which flew into the top corner.
The combination of Hancock and James almost created another Hartpury goal five minutes later as Hancock’s through ball sent him clear but his audacious lob over the advancing keeper bounced just wide. West Suffolk were still looking like dangerous opponents however and Hartpury keeper Ashley Harrison had to be at his very best to turn Ingram’s long range shot round the post.
Hartpury created another gilt edge opportunity on the half hour mark as Bismark Kwarteng found space before releasing Ollie Pitt down the right channel. Pitt powered to the bye line before whipping an inviting ball across the face of goal which just eluded the on rushing Daniel Holloway. Moments later Holloway broke through once more but could not beat the keeper.
As the game approached half time Ashley Lovell shot wide after good work from Brett James, but following this near miss Hartpury were hit with the classic counter punch as West Suffolk broke down the left flank. Nugent’s cross was not defended well at the back post allowing striker Clark to fire home the equaliser from close range.
The goal gave West Suffolk fresh impetus and they began the second half well. Ashley Harrison was by far the busier of the two keepers and had to make a couple of smart saves as Nugent broke through on goal twice in the opening 10 minutes of the half. Hartpury were rocking at this point but some how managed to keep the scores level thanks in part to some gritty defending and also some wasteful finishing from the West Suffolk strike force.
After seeing out this difficult patch, Hartpury eventually regained their control of proceedings as their superior fitness levels began to shine through. Hancock saw a long range drive saved by Pope following a quickly taken free kick before full back Ciaran Gilbert’s speculative effort from the left touchline smacked against the cross bar and away to safety. Bismark Kwarteng then dribbled his way to the bye line but Dan Holloway was unable to convert from his cross.
With 15 minutes to go a strong run from Brett James won a free kick for Hartpury on the corner of the penalty area. Hancock delivered the set piece right footed into the danger area and following a scramble Dan Holloway was on hand to poke home and give Hartpury the lead once more. West Suffolk poured players forward as the final whistle approached and this left them susceptible to the counter attack. Following some resolute defending from Jordan Humphrey the ball was played up field to Kwarteng whose speed took him away from the retreating West Suffolk defence before he coolly slotted home under Pope to seal the win for Hartpury.
Overall Hartpury could be pleased with this opening day win against a strong West Suffolk side who look like being one of the other title contenders this year. Hartpury now travel to South Nottingham college next week knowing that they will have to be more clinical in front of goal if they are to emulate last season’s successes.
Junior Academy Manager Tim Jenkins commented: “I was very pleased with the way we started the game and the team looked well balanced. It was disappointing that we did not capitalise on our dominance during this period however, and we let West Suffolk back into the game. We came through a difficult period in the second half and finished the stronger and overall I think we just about deserved the win. West Suffolk will be a strong side this year and although this was only the first game of the season it was a crucial win.”
Hartpury Junior Academy U19s
Harrison, Malcolm, Marsh, Humphrey ©, Gilbert, Hancock, Lovell, Kwarteng, James (Langworthy), Holloway, Pitt (Buse).
Sub Not Used: Rutsch
Man of the Match: Ashley Harrison