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University of Sunderland staff come out on top in 13-goal thriller

A University of Sunderland staff XI came out on top against a combination of Team Sunderland 4ths and 5ths in a 13-goal thriller at a rainy Ford Hub with plenty of action at both ends.

University of Sunderland’s winning staff xi

It was a slow start to the game considering the drama that would follow, the first action saw Matty Harris brought down for a penalty, leaving goalkeeper Ahmed Hussein to have his bite of the proverbial cherry but a strong save by Ash Batey prevented the deadlock being broken.

There was no need for him to be called into action shortly thereafter when an inviting corner by Ollie Barnett was met at the penalty spot by the head of Chris Thornley, but the tall defender failed to direct his effort on target leaving him with his head in his hands.

Barnett made a run-in behind that the referee deemed to be well timed, despite calls for offside by the opposition, this did not deter the winger as he carried the ball towards goal before unleashing a quality finish to break the deadlock.

With the rain showing no signs of dwindling, the floodgates on the pitch opened from here for the remainder of the half.

Thornley, who had a good game all-in-all, made up for his earlier error with a well-weighted, defence splitting ball into the path of Tom Cushlow who finished strongly for his first of the evening. Moments later Harris, who gave his penalty earlier to Hussein, after some quick feet in the centre of the park tried to get in on the party from range but his shot, though powerful – maybe too much so in fact, was way wide of the mark.

With Andy Turnbull-ball now in full flow, the third was a good team goal as Martin Holt found Harris who had made a good run down the left before whipping in a lovely low left-footed cross into Owen Finney who took his chance first time.

Leading the line throughout the period of success was Cushlow, whose movement created space for him in the box to find his second. Initially denied by a Batey save, the ball was parried into his path as he dinked over the keeper into the now empty net for his brace.

The five-star end to the half for the staff side was completed when the ball was rolled into the path of Bren Scott who unleashed a knuckleball into the top right corner to bring the half to a close with three goals coming within 10 minutes of the interval.

Owen Finney preparing to make an appearance.

With the game in truth about giving players fitness and game time, Team Sunderland 5ths departed at half-time and were replaced by the fourth team who came out strongly in the second half, but had a mountain to climb.

They pulled their first back as they broke down the right, with the cross coming in only to be parried into the path of the open Michael Caleb who converted into an empty net. It wouldn’t be long before the deficit was reduced to three as Omar El-Maki fed the ball to James Alpine who finished with composure 1v1 with Hussein.

A quickfire double from the staff side followed as they reinstated their mammoth lead. Their first of the half coming following a Jack Murphy corner that the 4ths failed to clear, leaving Cushlow to strike home and complete his hat-trick.

This was followed by Harris getting a well-earned goal as he continued to cause problems across the park after coming back on from the bench, and it wasn’t an easy finish either as he fired it across Oscar Davies through a crowd of bodies into the far post.

The 4ths continued to show their resolve as Alpine produced another quality finish one-on-one to make it 7-3 with now over 80 minutes played – setting up a frantic end to the game with another three goals yet to come.

The first was perhaps the pick of the bunch as Harris now had a taste for goal, rifling an effort goal bound from range that proved to be too powerful for Davies who could only get a glove on the ball on its conquest for the top corner.

Straight from kick-off though Alpine would lay his stake for the match ball as he grabbed his third of the half and the fourth for the 4ths as his fitness and quality proved to be a level above – a point reinforced when he scored with the final kick of the game, despite claims for offside, to make it a respectable 8-5.