By Joe Green, Sports Editor
The 2022/23 BUCS season is well underway with Coombe Dingle hosting several football fixtures already; the headline event being the local derby between University of Bristol 1s and UWE 1s on Wednesday night.
Played under the floodlights and in front of a strong home crowd that was well matched by a raucous away support, the derby did not disappoint with several decisive moments making up an entertaining 2-2 draw.
A physical start set the tone for the rest of the game, with several strong challenges particularly from UWE as Bristol controlled possession in the early minutes.
The home side’s early dominance saw them win several free kicks in dangerous positions with no clear chances to show for it, although Dan Sutton’s deliveries from out wide were beginning to trouble the UWE defence.
UWE began to get more involved from the 20-minute mark retaining possession higher up the pitch, but the pressure of Bristol’s set pieces started to show as Sutton’s cross was flicked on by Javi Blazquez to Ben Bellman who shot wide.
UWE suffered a first-half blow when their goalkeeper, who had needed treatment earlier in the game, could not carry on and had to be replaced by an outfield player.
Tensions remained high with several 50-50 challenges, but UWE’s defenders overstepped the mark when Bristol’s Solly Tomlin-Kent was brought down inside the box, with the referee awarding a penalty despite strong appeals from UWE that threatened to boil over into something more.
The protests meant little to a calmheaded Sutton as he slotted home on the far left, despite the new keeper guessing correctly and gave Bristol a 1-0 lead.
The lead lasted only a couple of minutes however as a well-worked set piece saw UWE head home an equaliser from close range, before coming close to taking the lead from a corner soon after as well as having a half-hearted penalty shout waved away.
The heavens opened as the second half of a now very even contest got underway. With 50 minutes gone, Sutton gave Bristol the lead once more as a speculative free kick from near the left touchline caught out UWE’s stand-in keeper at his near side, much to the delight of the home fans.
The most controversial moment of a heated encounter occurred soon after when UWE seemingly equalised again via a header from a free kick, only for the goal to be disallowed a minute later for offside after a conversation between the referee and the linesman.
The decision prompted several minutes of debating with the restart delayed while UWE players pleaded their case, with the coaching staff claiming to have video footage that their ‘goalscorer’ was in fact onside.
However, with ambiguity over whether the goal was disallowed for offside or a foul and the ref uninterested in UWE’s attempts to implement VAR as he fought to regain control of the game, the match was restarted with the score still 2-1 to Bristol.
The game remained close and very physical, with Blazquez going close with a header and then again with a low effort from the right side of the box that was pushed wide for a corner.
Sutton got another free kick from an unconventional position on target although this time the keeper was untroubled, as UWE kept themselves in the game without creating many clear sights at goal as the game entered its final 15 minutes.
A lazy trip from a UWE defender gave Bristol a golden chance to seal the derby with a central free kick right on the edge of the box but were unable to convert.
UWE then found themselves in an identical position two minutes later after a robust challenge from a Bristol defender 20 yards from goal caused more arguing between the rival teams.
The visitors punished the indiscipline with a UWE player putting the ball just below the top left corner and well out of reach of keeper Jack Dennehy to make it 2-2 with five minutes to go.
Bristol thought they had taken a late lead when Pat Gibbs turned home a Sutton cross from ten yards, but the captain was judged to be offside by the linesman who also happened to be kitted out in a UWE tracksuit.
The match remained high tempo in the dying minutes with the crowd’s support unwavering despite the rain, but no one could find a winner with the game questionably ending before UWE were given the chance to take a promising free kick.
Despite its contentious moments, both sides did justice to the occasion with fluid midfield play and strong defensive performances throughout. Both sets of players will feel they could have emerged from the derby victorious, although Bristol had longer spells of domination and created more chances as the match neared its end.
Featured image: Joe Green