ULSAFC were left with mixed emotions following this season's second round of Central Venue fixtures in Watford on Saturday. A win, a draw and a loss, saw the team drop from second to third in the league standings with work to do if they're to challenge for the title with just 5 games to go. 4 points off top spot, 2 off second, UL will face each of their English opponents once more before the end of the season and with home fixtures next month the squad are confident that their goal is still within reach.
ULSAFC kicked off this round against reigning league champions Peterborough. The first half was a tight affair. UL held firm at the back but it was the Posh that were creating more chances. The second half was one to forget for the Limerick side. Houghton, the league's top goal scorer, finished passed UL debutant Justin Gary to give Peterborough the lead. A second goal quickly followed, as did a third from a free kick on the edge of the box. Houghton went on the score a hat-trick as the Posh put 6 past UL. Kevan O'Rourke scored a consolation goal from a Craig Dowling corner in what was ultimately a disappointing performance from the team.
In their second game of the afternoon UL were left frustrated by Arsenal despite upping their performance after their earlier defeat. Early in the first half Arsenal took the lead scoring directly from a free kick on the edge of the box. UL kicked on, however, and began to move the ball better and create chances. Behind at half time the Limerick squad were not prepared to lie down. Arsenal's keeper was forced into a succession of saves. UL eventually got the equaliser they deserved as Craig Dowling converted from the penalty spot. But the Arsenal shot stopper prevent UL from taking all 3 points. The squad were left frustrated by Arsenal's resilience particularly given that they had already dropped points in their first game.
Simon Baker's side pulled themselves together for the final game of the day. They faced an under strength, luckless Portsmouth side and had no option but to take all 3 points. UL proved to strong for Pompey and scored an impressive 8 goals. A determined team performance, each an every player made a fine contribution with youngster Neil Hoey popping up to score his first goal of the competition much to the delight of his teammates.
Peterborough took all 9 points from their fixtures and climbed to top spot. Everton recorded 2 wins to stay in second. UL dropped a place but remain in touching distance 4 points off the top. Maximum points from their remaining 5 games could yet be enough. Next month ULSAFC make history as they host their first round of EAFA fixtures. Everton and Man City travel to Limerick for a set of games that could prove decisive as the league draws closer to a finish. This league has proven highly competitive and entertaining from day one, no doubt the Irish leg of the competition will be thrilling too.