Defending Premier Division Champions Christ Church kicked off their Cuppers campaign with a mostly comfortable home victory against St Hilda’s. The return of the home side’s Blues players helped to add firepower to their attacking effort and rekindled some of the inventive play that saw them win the league last season.
Christ Church started very brightly and with great intensity, St Hilda’s struggling to cope with the forward-minded five-man midfield that the home side had implemented for the game. Despite this creativity, however, chances were not taken and the high tempo that Christ Church had opened with receded after fifteen minutes as Hilda’s plugged the gaps in midfield and began to get into the game. The away side also appeared strong on the counter attack, often breaking swiftly and effectively from midfield to find one of their two pacy forwards. The match became far tighter half way through the first period when a mistake from the Hilda’s goalkeeper allowed Christ Church to take the lead. However Hilda’s did not fold on conceding the goal, but surged back, exploiting a yawning hole in Christ Church’s usually solid formation to break away and equalise. The match then continued in much the same vein until half time, neither side particularly in the ascendancy, with too many ineffective and generally wayward passes ensuring the scores remained level at half time.
The match restarted with Hilda’s slowly developing a rhythm of their own, although Christ Church still looked the better team when on the ball and kept possession well. They also began to utilise the flanks to greater effect than they had done in the first half, spreading the play wide and getting their two Blues midfielders, Alec Ward and Alexander Whitehurst, involved in the game. Eventually, Christ Church’s pressure paid off with a strike from Whitehurst, which the Hilda’s goalkeeper should have dealt better with. However, a similar pattern to the first half crept in, with Christ Church unable to take full advantage of their 2-1 lead, and with their attacking midfield leaving the defence occasionally isolated and prone to swift counter attacks.
Despite this, St Hilda’s were unable to capitalise and after a Christ Church breakaway Ben White was brought down in the penalty area, the referee having little hesitation in pointing to the spot. Mark Michaelides converted the resulting penalty to give Christ Church a two-goal advantage, and from then on they looked relatively comfortable in controlling the play, adding a fourth goal to give the scoreline an emphatic feel.
Christ Church might not have completely dominated the game, but by the same token they were not often seriously threatened, and the final score was a fair reflection of the gulf in quality between the two sides. However, there are a multitude of very strong sides in Cuppers this year and it remains to be seen whether Christ Church can carry on this form into the latter stages of the competition.