After some lighthearted exchanges on Twitter between Digital Next CEO, Justin Blackhurst and UKFast CEO, Lawrence Jones, a date was set for an 11 aside football match between the two Manchester based Internet leviathans.

Taking place at a rather overcast Woodley Sports Stadium, both companies fielded a strong line up, with UKFast having the luxury of a pool over 200 employees compared Digital Next’s 50 staff.

Digital Next team Captain Mark Blackhurst exchanged handshakes and pleasantries with his opposite number and battle commenced.

The first 15-20 minutes were a cagey affair with few chances created for either side and Digital Next struggled to break down the solid defence of UKFast, who were resilient in their defensive duties, with striker Jade Merabi being fairly isolated upfront.

Around the 25 minutes mark, the game opened up somewhat as account manager Adam Bennett began pulling the strings and finding space in the centre of midfield.

The first real chance of the match fell to young apprentice Sam Clarke, as Chris Tipper and Anthony Knowles played some neat one touch football before Tipper fired over a delightful ball to Clarke who met it with his head, only to be denied by an unbelievable stop by the UKFast outstanding goalkeeper.

This chance was followed by an onslaught of Digital Next attacks, as they pushed UKFast back into their own half for some time, pressing and winning the ball back in pivotal areas of the pitch. The thirty minute mark saw a clattering challenge from ex-Northampton Town captain and networking extraordinaire Andy Holt. The challenge was fair but left a UKFast employee writhing in agony – this set the precedent for the rest of the half with some lively challenges flying in from both teams. With a few more half chances for both sides, the first half ended goalless.

After a rousing half-time speech from newly appointed Head Coach, James Bishop, Digital Next came flying out the pits and made a strong start to the second half. However, there was a turn in fortunes as a looping ball was filtered through the heart of the Digital Next defence and UKfast’s man ran one on one, cooly slipping the ball into the back of the net making it 1-0 to the hosting providers.

The goal unquestionably fired up Digital Next once more, and after a scrappy five minute spell they began to get a foothold back in the game, which culminated in midfield maestro Adam Bennett floating in an inviting ball, which was met by Man of the Match, web technician Andrew Watson who headed home to bring the sides level.

With the game in the balance, a stroke of genius from Head Coach, Bishop, saw Tom Glover introduced to bring some stability to the midfield, however another jinking run from winger Chris Tipper left two defenders bamboozled and delivered a perfect ball into the box for the on running Glover to cooly slide the ball under the keeper.

This pre-empted the arrival of a less than 100% Justin Blackhurst who was suffering from severe ‘Man Flu’, spurred on by accusations from UK Fast that Justin was “scared”, however his eagerness to be involved mirrored the appearance of a salivating Boxer dog!

Moments later, Bennett again was involved as he picked up the ball in the centre circle, looked up and found a defence splitting pass to the rejuvenated Justin Blackhurst, who’s sublime first touch gave him ample time to slot the ball home and take the game out of reach for a now jaded looking UKFast.

All in all a comfortable win for Digital Next and a game played in a competitive, but fair and friendly manner.

Digital Next look forward to the rematch and welcome challenges from any other businesses with an 11aside team in the Manchester area.

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