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Thursday 16 February 2012

NTU Women’s football first team edged out by Sheffield Hallam in a crucial contest

NTU Womens Football player stretching before kick off
NTU Womens Football player stretches before kick off

NTU Women's Football first team survival hopes were dealt a crushing blow on Wednesday afternoon after they were defeated in their BUCS Premier League match by Sheffield Hallam first team at Clifton campus.

A win would have taken NTU to within three points of Birmingham University and effectively ended any hope of Sheffield Hallam securing their Premier League North status for another season. It was a tense atmosphere and with the stakes so high both teams knew that only a win would suffice in this relegation six pointer.

NTU came out of the blocks the fastest and had the better of the early exchanges, with star striker Aileen Whelan testing the Hallam goalkeeper early on, unfortunately her shot was straight at the keeper. NTU continued to press but were limited to shots from outside of the area which the Hallam goalkeeper dealt with competently. NTU broke the deadlock in the twentieth minute, Lucy Webster played in Georgina Knowles down the right wing, Knowles whipped over a dangerous cross which caused confusion in the Hallam penalty area, Whelan was allowed to turn and get a snapshot in, but as the goalkeeper could only parry, Webster pounced to smash the ball in from six yards.

This sparked the game into life with Hallam going straight up the other end and forcing NTU goalkeeper, Chanelle Swadling into action for the first time, superbly parrying away Hallam's strikers shot to safety. Hallam we're on the front foot for the first time in the match and their players were in disbelief when Swadling again foiled their attempts of an equaliser. It wasn't long however before Hallam were on level terms. In the thirtieth minute Hallam's number nine jinked her way past two players before unleashing a shot into the net leaving Swadling rooted to the spot. The game was turned on its head and nine minutes later, Hallam made it 2-1 with another composed finish, their 'centre mid' received the ball on edge of the area and chipped the ball into the top corner over the helpless Swadling.

The impressive Whelan continued to press the Hallam back four and created a chance for herself to level the score but Hallam's goalkeeper was equal to it and saved well at her near post. NTU won a free kick on the edge of the area after more good work from their talisman however this went just over the bar and NTU went into half-time 2-1 down.

NTU were out of the half time team talk raring to go minutes before Hallam took the field, but It was Hallam who were creating the better chances and should have made it 3-1 but Swadling was in inspired form and kept NTU in it. On the hour mark the game sparked a frenzy of fierce challenges which set the tempo for the latter stages of the match. NTU were finding it frustrating to break down Hallam's resilient defence but caused a melee in the Hallam penalty area with their seventh corner. The ball was whipped in and was unlucky not to fall at the feet of a NTU player as the Hallam keeper gathered with relief. With 90 minutes on the clock NTU had another set-piece outside the area but again failed to find the elusive goal they longed for and finished the game losing 2-1.

It proved to be a difficult afternoon for the NTU players, but with it still mathematically possible to stay in this top BUCS division, one thing is clear, this current crop of players will continue to fight all the way to keep their premier league status.