Unsurprisingly The Scholars play their home games within the grounds of the University and what a superb facility they have. The university is known for its prowess in sports related subjects and boasts an amazing alumni including Sebastian Coe, Tanni Grey-Thompson and Paula Radcliffe amongst many others. In the football world they can list FA Cup winner Lawrie Sanchez and former Arsenal goalkeeper Bob Wilson.
The ground itself was opened in 2012 and has a capacity of around 3,000. It features a main stand that incorporates all of the facilities, clubhouse and covered seating areas. The entire ground is surrounded by concrete terracing seven rows deep and, most unusually for Step 5, has an electronic scoreboard. The pitch is a UEFA standard Fibresand Grass construction which, even after the continuous downpours we have ad in the past week, looked in absolutely immaculate condition. Overall this is a top class stadium maintained to an extremely high standard. This seems to be a running theme for this part of the country. Over the past couple of years I have visited a number of the grounds around Leicstershire and the majority are great examples of non-league stadia. Quorn themselves have a fine ground at Farley Way (On The Rebound), Barrow Town's stadium (Down By The Riverside) is one of the best I have been to, Anstey's Cropston Road has been lovingly renovated (A Game Of One Half), and Shepshed's Dovecote (Moore Woes For Shiners) is also an excellent ground full of character.
Coming into the game the United Counties Premier League top three was a triumvirate of Leicestershire clubs all located within around 3 miles of each other. Leaders Shepshed Dynamo on 36 points (13 games) were top on goal difference from Quorn (18 games), with Loughborough University in third a point behind (16 games). Both sides were in a reasonably good run of form, Quorn had won 5 of their last 6 league outings including a 2-1 defeat of Shepshed (Dynamo's only defeat of the season so far). The Scholars had won 3 and lost 3 of their last 6, but this did include a 13-0 hammering of bottom side Sleaford Town 2 weeks ago. Interestingly, both teams transferred from the Midland League at the end of last season, when Quorn finished in the top 6 whilst Loughborough ended the season third from bottom although well clear of the drop zone on points. Quorn had won 3-2 at Farley Way whilst this fixture ended in a 3-3 draw. To make matters more interesting the next match for both teams is away at Shepshed. Loughborough travel there on Boxing Day whilst Quorn, who don't have a Boxing Day fixture, visit the Dovecote on the 4th of January.
On what had been quite a mild day for December, it was definitely starting to drop a little chillier as the teams came out. However, the atmosphere soon warmed up as first Loughborough attacked from the kick-off but were then caught on the hop as Quorn hit back with a swift break down their left. Rackeem Reids's shot was parried by James Stallan but it fell kindly to Micah Jebbison who hammered it back past the keeper to make it 0-1. What a start to the game!
Loughborough's response was to start pinging passes around the pitch in the style that they love to play. It's great to watch but Quorn were clearly well aware of the threat and worked hard to close the University players down, win the ball back and break forward themselves. Even after going a goal ahead so early on, Quorn had certainly not come to defend, and the goal made no difference to their style.
The away side doubled their lead on 17 minutes. Once again it came from an attack down the left. This time the ball was only cleared as far as the edge of the box where the lurking Stephen Hart fired it back at goal. It took a deflection on the way, deceiving Stallan. 0-2.
Still Loughborough continued to play their football with the lively pairing of Dawes and Cashmore making sure that the Quorn defence could not relax.
Just before the half-hour mark the home side's task got a lot harder. Another Quorn attack, this time down the right side, was finally thwarted by the outstretched hand of Theo Sackey-Mensah in the box. The referee had no hesitation in pointing the the spot and then, after a taking a little time to consider, produced a red card for the Scholars defender. There were cries of double-jeopardy from the local support but the referee clearly felt that a clear goal-scoring opportunity had been deliberately denied. Stephen Hart took the spot kick and sent the keeper the wrong way to make it 0-3.
For the remaining 15 minutes of the half Loughborough changed tack, moving Connor Smith further up the park on the right and launching the ball towards him in the hope of winning a flick-on for the speedy pair of Cashmore and Dawes. Smith did manage to get a head to a few of the long balls, but the tactic did not seem to unduly worry the Quorn defence who comfortably saw out the remainder of the half.
HT Loughborough University 0 Quorn 3. A very solid performance by Quorn who were in control even before the penalty incident. However, the red card has probably ended the game as a contest.
Six minutes after the hour mark, however, Quorn did get a fourth when Tawanda Mangondoze headed in from a right-wing corner. 0-4.
Loughborough heads didn't drop though and they continued to ping the ball about with substitute Dan Collins looking very lively when he came on. The fresh legs and running ability giving the Quorn defence plenty to think about if they wanted to keep a clean sheet. In fact, just before the final whistle, with Quorn also down to 10 after an injury picked when all three subs had come on, Collins again jinked through a few tired looking tackles before unleashing a low drive that beat Culverwell but clattered off the inside of the post and flew to safety.
FT Loughborough University 0 Quorn 4. All in all, a brilliant and well deserved result for Quorn who go top of the league for Christmas after Shedshed were held to a draw by Anstey Nomads.
Great credit to Loughborough for their refusal to change their style of play. This is the third time I have seen them and they always try to play an entertaining brand of football. Even at 4-0 down and with only ten men, they continued with this style of play today. As a coach myself I find it heartening to see a team stick to their beliefs in this way.
No doubt that both of these sides will be up there come the end of the season.
Loughborough University: Stallan, Ferrinho, Davis(c), Sackey-Mensah, Turner, Duah, Smith, Ogunmekan, Cashmore, Dawes, Connor. Sunds: Cooke, Hilton, Fadahunsi, Iaciofano, Collins
Quorn: Culverwell, Stringfellow(c), Marshall, Oshungbure, Chapman, Meikle, Jebbison, Dale, Mangondoze, Hart, Reid. Subs: Hencliffe, Rowlamd, Brothwell, Ebanks
Ground Number: 223