The second string fell to a powerful, well organised Loughborough III team in their first away match of the season. The usual problems for any reserve team captain were again apparent for Tom, with players dropping down from the firsts then being taken back due to injuries in the Blues squad and a reluctance from some to organise their day so that they could make the journey North and just be a substitute. As a result, a bare eleven made the trip up to Loughborough in the driving rain, a stark contrast to the home team's squad of 17. Dave Robinson returned in goal after missing the last couple of weeks with strained wrist ligaments, Si Lennox slotted into the 'Claude Makelele' role in front of the back 4, with Toby Hodgson recovering from his knee injury to make his competetive debut at right back, moving DeHaes up to right Midfield and leaving Ivermee as the lone striker. Despite arriving in plenty of time, a lack of any meaningful directions to changing rooms or pitch meant there was only enough time for the briefest of warm-ups. This is no excuse, but provides some explanation, for the dire start made by the Centaurs. With their first attack, Loughborough forced a corner, which was half-cleared. Rather than completing the clearance we dallied on the edge of the area, trying to pass our way out of danger and the ball fell to a Loughborough striker 22 yards out who smashed the ball low into Dave Robinson's bottom right hand corner. It was, without doubt, a classy strike, but it came from an opportunity that should not have been presented.
1-0 down against the pre-season league favourites inside the first 2 minutes and with a referee that looked like someone who was on day release from the local nursing home, it was a less than ideal start. Indeed the first 10 minutes was a nearly constant stream of Loughborough attacks, with the pace of their 3 forwards causing the back line no end of problems. Despite this, Loughborough were resticted to shots from distance, that Robinson was able to deal with relatively comfortably.
As the first half wore on, the Centaurs came more into the game - Ivermee cut in well from the left back position to send a 20 yard shot fizzing wide after 15 minutes, and the rest of the half was fairly even. With 10 minutes to go to half time, probably the best chance of the half fell to Jon Siah - he charged down a clearance from the Loughborough goalkeeper but his lob over the stranded keeper lacked the pace or accuracy to beat the backtracking defenders on the line, who calmly headed clear from underneath their own bar. Other half-chances fell to Ivermee who dragged another shot from 20 yards wide and Siah who fired straight at the keeper from a narrow angle.
Despite being 1-0 at half-time there were enough signs to suggest that the Centaurs were capable of getting at least a point out of the game. Unfortunately the 2nd half performance was not up to the same standard and Loughborough were able to control the pace of the game. The Loughborough back four were happy to play the ball around, sucking players in from the Centaurs' midfield to help Ivermee before seeking the long ball to the ever dangerous front 3. When the Centaurs did get the ball, things were a little bit frantic, with too much played long, and not enough use being made of the numerical superiority in midfield.
Loughborough rightly had a goal chalked off for offside as a cross-shot was turned in at the far post, but for the most part chances for both teams were few and far between. With 15 minutes left Si Lennox was switched from defensive midfield to partner Ivermee up front and to counter Loughborough switched from 4-3-3 to a diamond 4-4-2. Loughborough's substitutions injected not only fresh legs but additional pace up front, with Centre backs James and Wherry having to use all the tricks in the book including a slight re-designing of one Loughborough forward's shirt to prevent the Loughborough forwards breaking through. Inevitably Loughborough sat back, happy to hit on the break and the game opened up. A free header 8 yards out for Lennox with 8 minutes left from Thomas's fine left wing cross was probably the Centaurs' best chance and when it was directed disappointingly wide, most players thought the game was over. There was still one final act, with just 2 minutes left on the clock, a Loughborough striker managed to out-muscle and out-pace the tiring and otherwise excellent Wherry and as Robinson advanced to narrow the angle managed to square the ball to his unmarked collegue to sidefoot home amidst offside claims. It was a goal that owed much to the match situation and offered a flattering element to the scoreline between 2 teams that for the central 86 minutes were very evenly matched. Having said that, Loughborough will feel that they controlled the game and were always comfortable, at no stage did the Centaurs really look capable of dominating and going on to get maximum points, the best that could have been hoped for was a snatched point.
Team: D. Robinson, Clare, Wherry, James, Hodgson, Lennox, Thomas, Barrs, Siah, DeHaes, Ivermee