Newcastle had already beaten Abertay, Glasgow and Derby on their march to the semi-finals of the BUCS Football Trophy, and Nottingham now stood between Newcastle and a place in the final. Nottingham, however, proved to be a sterner test than previous opponents, and despite playing some good football Newcastle ultimately fell just short against the visitors to Longbenton.
Newcastle very nearly endured a nightmare start, with Nottingham’s Knox taking just 30 seconds to fire an effort from 20 yards that required a spectacular save from Macleod. However, after the early scare, Newcastle began to settle on the ball and look more composed in possession. Walden nearly capitalised on Nottingham’s inability to clear a good cross from the right wing, only to draw a low save from the keeper. Newcastle enjoyed comfortable spells of possession throughout the first half but failed to create clear-cut chances, dealing well with the problems caused by the pace and strength of Nottingham’s Kwadu. Just as the first half seemed to be petering out without any further incident, Newcastle snatched the lead. Chilufya latched on to a through ball that dissected the Nottingham defence and calmly lifted it beyond the onrushing keeper, securing a 1-0 lead for Newcastle as the half time whistle blew.
Newcastle endeavoured to extend their lead in the second half and didn’t take long to make their intentions clear, with Alambritis being mere inches away from latching onto a through ball. As the second half progressed Alambritis was increasingly prevalent in the thick of the attacking action for Newcastle, beating a handful of defenders and cutting the ball back across the box, only to find that the finishing touch from a teammate was lacking. Chilufya then nearly doubled his tally after being picked out by a sumptuous ball over the top of the defence, only to see his low effort well matched by the opposing keeper.
Just as Newcastle seemed likely to bolster their advantage, Nottingham equalised. Newcastle’s defence suffered a momentary lapse in concentration, allowing Holden to find space in the box and rifle beyond Macleod. With the scores at 1-1 extra time was now a possibility, and the scores remained deadlocked in spite of Martinez’s increased creative output. Macleod did well to power off of his line to halt the advance of the onrushing Kwadu, denying what would have been a golden opportunity. In a frantic finish, Newcastle saw a thundering half volley saved in style, Alambritis nearly lifted the ball over the keeper only to see his effort go agonisingly wide, and a vital, last-gasp block was made to deny a Nottingham winner. Newcastle certainly had chances to win the game, but after 90 minutes the score remained 1-1, forcing extra time.
The additional 30 minutes were a test of stamina as much as ability, and both sides appeared to undergo a decrease in creative output. The first 15 minutes passed by with few chances of note, and a penalty shootout was looming. However, Nottingham struck early in the second half of extra time, with a stinging effort from Nottingham’s number 11 cannoning off the crossbar and in to put the Midlands side within reaching distance of the final. Newcastle launched wave after wave of attack in an effort to find a late leveller, even resorting to sending the keeper upfield as the crosses bombarded the Nottingham box. However, the away side produced the kind of resolute defensive display that wins games, and for all their efforts, Newcastle lost 2-1.
Newcastle will undoubtedly be bruised by their defeat, but they should take pride in their battling performance, having exhibited some real quality that, on another day, might have won the game. Dreams of BUCS Trophy glory may be on hold for another year but, with the Northern 1A League title secure, an 11 point lead at the top of the Northern Alliance Premier Division and 2 cup finals to look forward to, the club can certainly be proud of their success this season.