Stirling League Win Review- how did we do it?

With all football grinding to a halt as the coronavirus pandemic rages on, there haven’t been too many other things to talk about. Bearing that in mind, I’m going to do something a little different today and have a look back over my football side’s (Stirling University 3s) league win this season. We finished the season with 25 points from a possible 30, with a combination of quality coaching and good football making us an exciting watch. So how did we do it?

0-0 away vs Strathclyde 2s

We’d been playing in a Saturday league prior to our BUCS campaign getting underway and we hadn’t started too well; from what I remember, we gave away around five penalties in our first six games and didn’t keep a single clean sheet. As this was my first year taking part in university football, I wasn’t too sure what to expect when we were to go up against another side full of students.

However, in a game against the team who would go on to be our closest title rivals, we put in a pretty solid performance. It was a rainy game and we had the better of the first half, with our opposition controlling the second period a bit more. We had to grind for a while and I think a draw was a fair result in the end, so a point on the board and a first clean sheet were very welcome.

1-0 win at home vs Glasgow 3s

Another solid performance gave us hope that we could string together a decent run of form. Our opposition weren’t particularly strong and they didn’t really create too much, with our defence snuffing out any opportunities that did present themselves. However, we didn’t offer too much ourselves and our main chance in the first half came in the form of a penalty- which we missed.

We managed to find a winner in the second half courtesy of a very good finish from one of our central midfielders, a nice curling effort from just outside the penalty area. We were able to see out the game and pick up our first three points of the season.

4-1 win away vs Aberdeen 2s

A long trip up to Aberdeen brought our first resounding win of the season. We hadn’t scored too many goals before this, so it was nice to send out a message to the league telling them our strikers were a force to be reckoned with. I remember my legs feeling a bit heavy during this game after a busy opening to the season, and this contributed to them pulling a goal back when we were 3-0 up.

It didn’t matter too much, however, as we were already pretty comfortable. We cut through their defence with ease using quick switches of play and scored some nice goals, which contributed to a fun drive home later on. Seven points from nine represented a very good start.

3-0 win away vs Herriot Watt 2s

Next up was a trip to Edinburgh to face Heriot Watt 2s, where my younger brother is undergoing an apprenticeship; I invited him to come to watch and he wasn’t disappointed. Again, we played some fast flowing football (we were particularly effective when counter attacking) and scored plenty to bolster our goal difference.

Our performance levels dropped in the closing stages of the game and again some good defending was required to keep a clean sheet, but again we couldn’t complain after the fast start we had made and the result kept us in the hunt for the title.

1-0 win at home vs Robert Gordon 2s

This was, without a doubt, our worst performance in the BUCS season so far. We opted to start with a different formation in the hope that we could rip this team to shreds- they were rooted to the bottom of the table at this point. It backfired, however, and we had to change shape pretty quickly. It had a lasting effect, however, and a combination of poor performances led to a below par showing.

We still managed to get the job done though, with a late goal and a red card for the opposition helping us greatly. This meant that after half of our league fixtures being fulfilled, we were joint top of the table with Strathclyde and the only points either of us had dropped were to each other.

5-0 win at home vs Aberdeen

It was Aberdeen’s turn to visit us next, and they probably wished they hadn’t. In a game where we showed all of our attacking capabilities, they never had a chance to get going and we were ruthless when creating and taking chances.

Me and my fellow defenders were very rarely troubled and were able to pass out from the back effectively, leading to some nice passing moves further up the pitch as well. After another win, things were really heating up at the top of the table.

2-1 win at home vs Strathclyde 2s

You guessed it- our next game was against our main title rivals, Strathclyde. Unfortunately, I had an exam at the same time and so was unable to play (perhaps fortunately, as I’d injured myself on a night out a few days before). If there had been one game this season I didn’t want to miss it would have been this one, but that’s the way it worked out.

From what I’ve been told, it was a very good game and one typical of a title decider. We were 2-0 up after some well worked goals and despite giving one back in the second half, a makeshift defence was able to see out the game and claim a vital three points.

3-1 win at home vs Heriot Watt

The main thing I remember from this game is the weather- it was absolutely dreadful. The pitch was in dire condition and I feel sorry for the three of my friends who braved the conditions to come and watch from the sidelines.

For the first time this season, we went behind in a BUCS game after a good glancing header from one of the Heriot Watt strikers. This seemed to spark us into action, and we responded quickly. After going ahead just before half time, we put the game to bed after the break and quickly headed for a hot shower. We would have taken three points no matter the level of performance prior to the game given the weather, and that’s what we got.

4-0 win away vs Robert Gordon

We knew that the league wasn’t won yet, but what we did know was that a minimum of 4 points from our final two games would guarantee us the title. Another trip up to Aberdeen brought us our first three, and it was our latest ruthless performance that earned it. Barring a heated yellow card challenge from myself in the first half, it was a very composed performance. Our tactics were spot on and we never looked like letting them into the game.

After the game, however, we found out that Strathclyde had dropped points to Glasgow and we had therefore won the league with a game to spare. Wild celebrations, and a fun night out in Aberdeen, ensued.

3-2 loss away vs Glasgow

It’s just as well we won up at Robert Gordon, because our last game of the season was diabolical. It’s a shame this was the case, as it was the last BUCS game for a number of boys who are leaving university at the end of the year. It would have been nice for them to go out with a win.

We played extremely poorly, there’s no denying that. We didn’t look up for it until Glasgow scored, and despite equalising twice we didn’t look like we were going to win the game. A last minute winner brought an end to our ‘invincible’ dreams, and some poorly chosen words aimed at the referee earned me a red card after the full time whistle.

Promotion confirmed

Overall, however, this was an extremely successful season. Expectations were not high going into the campaign and we emerged with 25 points and, therefore, promotion to a higher league. A number of good performances, both as individuals and as a team, made this possible, and our coach’s tactics were usually spot on as well (apart from an infamous 3-4-3 setup in our first game against Robert Gordon). Sorry Bryan.

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