“It’s fantastic, I lost the final two years ago in my first year but to win it now in my third year its great” grins the Player of the Final Award winner, Paul Sludden. “We held in at the end and it was great to come back and win it. I’m a striker, that’s my job (to score), it’s my job to put the ball in the net.” Two goals from Sludden helped Stirling come back from a goal down to defeat Loughborough 2-1 in the Men’s Football Championship Final.
“We never played as well as we could. We’ve got a lot of young guys in the team, it’s a really young team and we’re really proud to have won, it’s the first time Stirling have won this competition, it’s a delight for us” says Stirling University Football Coach, Eddie May. It was favourites Loughborough who got off to the perfect start, Tristan Dunkly scoring in the fourth minute with a composed finish from the edge of the box after some slick play down the right wing. Stirling took a while to settle, Sludden having a half chance after 11 minutes, the striker just lofting his effort over the bar with the goalkeeper in no-man’s land.
“I’m a striker, that’s my job (to score), it’s my job to put the ball in the net. It’s an instinct thing, sometimes when you’ve got too much time you don’t produce.” He wouldn’t have to wait long though to find the back of the net, latching on to a lovely dinked ball through on 26 minutes to lift the ball over the advancing goalkeeper and level things for his side.
Stirling were now on top, stifling Loughborough’s attacking play with some stout defending.
And this hard work at the back paid off as they took the lead on the stroke of half-time, Sludden again the protagonist, running on to a superb 60 yard ball and letting the ball come across his body before lofting the ball over the goalkeeper in almost identical circumstances.
Loughborough came out in the second half looking for a response, almost getting it through a long range effort from their right back that was well held by the Stirling goalkeeper, before their number five found himself in a good position but could only scuff wide from just inside the box.
Sludden came within inches of completing his hat-trick as the game entered the last ten minutes, his 25 yard free kick just missing the top corner, but it would not matter as Stirling held out for a fantastic victory. “It’s a massive achievement for us to compete against any English university, we have 20 lads on the scholarship programme and only 3,500 people to choose from in the whole university” adds May. “The overall performance doesn’t really matter, its all about the result.”