The BUCS Futsal calendar has been in full swing since the semester began with the men’s 1st in action for three consecutive weekends. With a shot at the Scottish title and progress in the nationwide BUCS cup up for grabs, it has been a series of season-defining weeks.
First up was the penultimate round of Scottish League 1A matches in which the saints faced three crucial fixtures in their quest for the title. In the first game of the day, which also happened to be the Saints’ first fixture since early December last year, the Saints came up against a well-organized and clinical Stirling side. The Saints experienced something of a winter hangover and fell to their second BUCS defeat of the season, losing 8-4. However, there was no time to recover with another clash against rivals Edinburgh 2’s. This time the Saints made a quick start and overwhelmed their opposition running out 8-2 victors. The day concluded with a match against a much-rejuvenated University of the West of Scotland, who just wouldn’t let the Saints out of range, constantly pegging our boys back. Injuries began to take their toll to the point where the Saints were left without a single sub. Nonetheless, they managed to battle through, and after a late flurry of goals won 9-6 leaving the team 2nd with one round of fixtures remaining.
The final round of fixtures took place at Ravenscraig Sports center in Glasgow and provided an excellent backdrop for St Andrews to make their final push for the title. With just two matches scheduled, the Saints knew that in order to have any chance of coming out on top, 6 points would be required along with a vastly improved goal difference. With this in mind, the Saints ruthlessly disposed of the West of Scotland recording their largest victory of the season to date, a 10-0 win. However, due to other results by the time the Saints second and final fixture of the league came around hopes of overturning Stirling as champions had disappeared, leaving the Saints to fight for second place in their last fixture against Strathclyde 1’s. The Saints made a promising start by taking an early lead and even managed to hang on till half time despite considerable pressure. Nevertheless, after the break, the unrelenting pressure finally broke down the resilient defense, with Strathclyde then leading 4-2. With just minutes on the clock, the decision was taken to switch to fly-keeper which unfortunately backfired and lead to three goals in three minutes taking the final result to 7-2, a score which masks the closeness of the actual match. Nevertheless, with that result, Strathclyde 1’s managed to jump St Andrews into second place leaving the saints in a disappointing but nonetheless extremely respectable 3rd place.
Frustrated by the missed opportunity to claim the Scottish 1A title, the Saints now had to turn their attention to the daunting prospect of their BUCS cup fixture against the much-favoured Sheffield 1’s, a team top of the Northern English division. The long journey to Dundee for the fixture didn’t appear to have much of an impact on the visitors, with Sheffield running out into an early three goal lead within the first ten minutes. However, the Saints responded with a rallying display scoring an incredible three goals and reduced the margin to just two goals at the break (5-3). Nevertheless, determined to prove their quality and make up for their league disappointment, the Saints put in a flawless second half display characterized by excellent attacking football and outrageously good defending. The Saints pilling on the pressure eventually drew level with just minutes of the half remaining and came within a whisker of winning the tie outright. With the nerves escalating the tie proceeded to extra-time where the saints again pilled on the pressure taking the lead through a thundering strike of the crossbar by the man of the match, Ben Hessel. Yet Sheffield proved why they are top of their division by responding with two quickfire goals which looked to have sealed the tie. Yet as has been the case all season long, the Saints were unwilling to give in and dug deep to find an equalizer with just minutes to spare, taking the match to penalties. Winning the toss, Sheffield decided to go first with both sides scoring three of their first four spot-kicks. However, after a leg save in from their fifth attempt, the Saints had the opportunity to wrap up a historic victory. Tragically, the Sheffield keeper pulled off a magnificent save to continue the shootout and deny the Saints glory. The shoot-out proceeded until eventually, the pressure of taking second weighed too heavy for St Andrews with the shootout ending 7-6 in favour of the visitors. Whilst a disappointing end to a fantastic fixture, the resilience of our team was a testament to how far futsal has progressed in such a short period of time, especially given that, at the same stage of the cup last season, the team lost 17-0.
Therefore, whilst the Saints may not have quite reached BUCS glory, this season the team’s results represented a vast improvement from previous years which is a testament to the hard work and commitment of all involved with the club. Furthermore, the performances in BUCS demonstrate the side’s ability to genuinely compete with some of the top futsal sides in Scotland and across the UK and therefore should be a source of great optimism heading into next season. With the continued grit and determination that characterized the team’s BUCS performances this season, there is little doubt that the future of Saints Futsal is a promising one.
We simply cannot wait to see what they accomplish in the future.