Hartpury’s university first team booked their place in the semi-final of the BUCS football championship with a 2-0 home quarter-final win over Northumbria University.
Goals in either half from midfielders Mitch Botfield and Adam Mann have set up a clash with Loughborough University, who last season knocked Hartpury out of the competition agonisingly on penalties.
Despite not capitalising on all their chances in a sometimes scrappy affair, Hartpury showed a greater determination to win, out-working and outmuscling Northumbria in most aspects of the game.
Hartpury looked to take the game to the opposition from the outset, attacking down both flanks before making dangerous crosses into the box, striker Scott Wilson and winger Ross Staley prominent in flowing attacks.
With early pressure mounting, fine interplay from Wilson and Botfield forced the goalkeeper into making a spectacular diving save from a fierce Botfield strike, the shot from outside the penalty area looking destined for the top right-hand corner of the goal.
From the resulting corner, a well worked set-piece move gave Botfield another chance to shoot from distance, but this time the shot sailed inches over the bar.
Hartpury’s early pressure eventually told as a through ball from Adam Mann that split the Northumbria defence was latched onto by Botfield, who calmly slotted past the keeper to give Hartpury a deserved lead on the 20-minute mark.
The remainder of the half saw Hartpury continue to threaten when going forward, using speed and width to launch their attacks. On several occasions, the ball was worked into wide areas but the final ball into the box was unable to find the arriving support player.
Northumbria did pose a threat before the close of the half, Hartpury needing alert goalkeeper Harvey Rivers to clean up after sloppy defending from a dangerous corner.
After the interval, the game lost its continuity; both teams failing to stamp their authority.
The first clear chance of the half was to fall to the away side. A sloppy header from centre-back Mat Liddiard created danger, giving the Northumbria winger space to attack the goal. His tame shot was parried by Rivers before eventually being cleared by the Hartpury defence.
This chance seemed to spur Northumbria into action, with the Northerners causing problems at the Hartpury end from another set piece.
Hitting on the break after a Northumbria set piece, a Hartpury long ball found its way to Wilson with space in front of him. Taking it as far as he could, an attempted lay off to Botfield was cleared by an arriving Northumbria defender in the direction of the goal, only for the goalkeeper to produce a last-gasp save to deny an own goal and a second for Hartpury.
With the game still not safe, it proved a perfect opportunity to introduce Matt Williams into the game. Back from injury, the defender replaced workhorse midfielder Edge with instructions to steady the ship at the back.
With 15 minutes left, central midfielder Chris Knowles set off on a mazy run on the edge of the penalty area, only to be brought down by a trailing Northumbria leg. Stepping up to take the free kick, Adam Mann fired low and hard through the goalkeeper’s palm to surely seal the game for Hartpury.
Looking assured at the back, with Williams and his centre-back partner Jordy Nkunga winning clean headers, Hartpury stopped Northumbria’s aerial assault in the closing stages.
The game was ushered to a close intelligently to give Hartpury a thoroughly deserved 2-0 victory.