A shock result saw pre-match favourites, Level 2, crash out at the hands of the third years by the narrowest of margins in a 1-0 defeat in the JMU Journalism World Cup semi-finals.
Owen McKendry’s second years, who looked so dangerous while making their debut last spring, could not turn on the style again in the last-ever tournament, falling victim to the graduating class, who managed to pick up their first victory.
Key injuries – alongside miraculous recoveries – and a general consensus about a lack of fitness cost Level 2 dearly, while Ross Crane’s Level 3 defied the odds by taking a first-half lead that they doggedly held onto to reach their one and only final.
It could have been an entirely different story if the second years managed to take just one of their earlier opportunities, notably with just five minutes on the clock when the energetic John Broad crossed for Will Moore, but he shot weakly at Jake Royle. Alex Metcalfe then went closer still when he lofted the ball against the angle of post and crossbar.
Undaunted, the third years gradually found their feet without unduly worrying Level 2 goalkeeper, Sheldon McGovern, who seemed equal to the task of holding them at bay.
YouTube: JMU Journalism
Paul Kelly’s foul on Philipp Egger led to Jack Keith’s free-kick which flashed just wide and Egger himself then went close with a diving header from a corner as Level 3’s guest players made the greatest impression.
At the opposite end, Broad then cut in from the flank to let one fly across the goalmouth but nobody was on hand to finish things off.
Keogh eventually opened the scoring with a low and hard drive past McGovern into the bottom corner to upset the rhythm of the highly-fancied second years after half an hour.
Captain Crane was sent clean through and should have doubled the advantage on the stroke of half-time, but as the blood rushed to his head he appeared to lose his nerve and his tame effort was comfortably saved.
Josh Brain, one of the stalwarts of Level 2’s debut campaign, later powered through but shot straight at ‘keeper Royle, then substitute Ben Scholey missed a crucial header which could have led to the equaliser.
As the second half dragged on, the prospect of an upset became increasingly apparent, with Level 3 more than a match for the pressure they were put under as the second years searched for an leveller.
They believed they should have been given a lifeline when Oliver Green’s header seemed to have been handballed by Dan Boal, but penalty appeals were denied by referee, Tim Abraham, who then evened things up by not giving one to Level 3 after what looked like a foul on Egger.
Level 2 players who had earlier limped off claiming to have broken ankles returned to the fray as things became desperate, while goalkeeper McGovern shook off what he believed to be a broken wrist to make a cameo appearance up front, but it was all in vain.
The third years held onto their slender advantage to force their way into the last JMU Journalism World Cup finale, although they will surely be wary of taking on Level 1 following their incredible record-breaking 14-0 defeat of the Alumni.
YouTube: Looking back at the first JMU Journalism World Cup (2010)