It was joy for Nottingham and heartbreak for Leeds Beckett in the BUCS Football playoffs, as a 3-1 victory for the Green and Gold sees the side confirm their place in Men’s Premier North next season.
As was to be expected in a playoff final, the two sides could not be separated as they both aimed to deal an early blow, and gain the much-needed upper hand. Beckett fired wide from close range, and Nottingham were unable to take advantage from a corner which the opposition were able to clear. Leeds were able to launch a counter attack, with some individual skill bringing the ball into the box, before a solid challenge from Nottingham’s Ben Harding seeing away any danger. With just under 15 minutes on the clock, the score sat at 0-0.
With time ticking on, and the importance of the first goal growing, Leeds Beckett attempted a hopeful long throw, aiming to force a mistake from the Nottingham side. They managed just that, with the Green and Gold unable to deal with the delivery, allowing Leeds Beckett to rifle home. Advantage to the northern side with the score sitting at 1-0 after 14 minutes.
Following the goal, Beckett played with an additional sense of caution. Although their goal came early, it was now Nottingham who needed to try and take control of the game. An equaliser was key for not just their confidence, but for their chances of top-flight football next season. After a tense ten minutes following the goal, Nottingham came close through captain Stu Lamont, who could only find the side netting from a tight angle.
Almost instantly, Leeds had a chance to double their lead. A well worked defence caught out the Nottingham back line, not for the first time, but the recipient at the far post could not find the target. Their shot, according to the Nottingham twitter admin, not only went over the bar, but the fence as well. A miss of this fashion would prove costly, not just for the offender’s confidence, but the team’s chances of promotion.
Another tight period of the game followed, before Nottingham finally were able to create some space on the wing, with right back Joel Wilson delivering an inch perfect ball for Isaac Stones to lay off to winger Tom Gould, who did not need asking twice. He slotted home in a calm fashion, levelling the game with 32 minutes on the clock. Leeds Beckett no longer held the upper hand, a point which would be exemplified further before the first half reached its conclusion.
A lapse of concentration at the back from Beckett allowed Nottingham an opportunity from the penalty to take the lead in the game for the first time. Gould, full of confidence following his equaliser earlier in the game, stepped up and did not make any mistake. The ball hit the back of the net, and with the first half drawing to a close, Gould and Nottingham had two, and victory in the BUCS Football playoffs seemed in sight.
In stoppage time, it was Gould once again who rose to the occasion. Everything the winger did seemed to turn to ‘Gould’ as he breezed past two players before slotting home in a collected fashion. A first half hat trick was completed, and Nottingham were 3-1 up. Gould had almost single-handedly turned the game around. The whistle blew shortly after for half time, with the Leeds Beckett players left scratching their heads as to how the game had slipped through their fingers.
There was little to report about in the second half as Nottingham were able to, with ease, dictate the tempo of the game, with one eye certainly on the clock. Leeds Beckett had the wind taken from their sails, and despite the magnitude of the game, were unable to garner the necessary response. Nottingham were unlucky not to have a fourth, as the clock slowly ticked down in the BUCS Football Playoffs.
When the final whistle blew, the Nottingham players were understandably jubliant. Their hard work throughout the season had paid off in a 3-1 victory, and there was only one way they were going; up. They were deserved winners on the day, but Leeds Beckett can still hold their heads up high, with this campaign adding the Midlands Tier 1 trophy to their cabinet. This is where they will return next season, with Nottingham making the step up to the Men’s Premier North, largely down to the efforts of Tom Gould.