Third years reach final as Level 1 bow out

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The graduating Class of 2017 had one more chance to make it into the JMU Journalism World Cup Final, and they grabbed it with both hands as Level 3 beat the first years 3-1 in the semis.

Two goals from Matthew Skelly and a runaway solo sprint by Josh Hodge set the seal on a maiden victory for the third years, though Level 1 pushed them all the way in a tense and eventful affair at IM Marsh.

Level 3 take on Level 1 in the 2017 JMU Journalism World Cup Semi-Final

The debutants made a strong, positive start to the tournament, and it all could have been so different if Level 1 goakeeper, Stephen Killen, had not seen his bold and outrageous attempt at a late equaliser crash against the crossbar.

Level 3 looked more threatening in the opening period, with Alistair Baker blowing a glorious opening, the impressive Josh Hodge hitting the bar with a cheeky chip, and loan star, Jonathan Griffiths, also finding the woodwork.

Referee Guy Hodgson denied the first years two strong penalty shouts before eventually pointing to the spot at the other end after Liam Plumbley handled Arun Lal’s cross.

Killen got his fingertips to Skelly’s spot-kick, but not enough to keep it out as the third years took a lead which they held until the interval.

Hollie Hayes became the third woman to take to the field in JMU Journalism World Cup history, with Level 3 growing in confidence and deserving of their half-time advantage.

YouTube: Post-match interviews with captains Josh Doherty (right) and Ross Crane

Alarm bells were ringing not long after the break, though, with Joe Maude’s curling left foot free-kick tipped over by Level 3 goalkeeper, Tom Begbie, before a series of corners finally earned their reward for Level 1. Maude was involved again as his inswinging delivery was met firmly by a powerful Noah Aldous header for an emphatic equaliser.

The marauding Maude then provided the ammunition for Tom Cameron, but he headed against the post from close range, before being denied once more – this time by Begbie.

Matthew Skelly beats Stephen Killen from the spot as Level 3 go ahead against Level 1 in the 2017 JMU Journalism World Cup Semi-Final

The third years forged in front for the second time when Skelly slid the ball past Killen, so the adventurous Liverpudlian number one decided to try to change the course of destiny. With the clock running down, the ‘keeper abandoned his net to go forward for a corner, and what a story it would have been if his header had been an inch or two lower and not rattled the bar.

Killen chanced his arm once too often, however, after attempting to repeat the trick only to find himself stranded upfield, and Hodge took full advantage to stride clear on the counterattack, stroking the ball home into an empty goal for 3-1.

Level 1 can take great heart from their tournament debut, but it’s the third years who are left with the shot at glory in Thursday’s final in a match they enter as firm underdogs against defending champions, Level 2.

Photo galleries – click on a thumbnail to enlarge the images

2017 Semi-Finals: Alumni 2-9 Level 2 >>

JMU Journalism World Cup archive reports >>

YouTube: Looking back at the inaugural JMU Journalism World Cup (2010)