In focus: The OxStu football Cuppers quarter-finals round-up
Ben Crome, Alex Tyndall, James Restall, Edd Hermes
Christ Church 2 – Wadham 4
By Ben Crome at The Theatre of Dreams, Iffley Road
Six goals, end-to-end football, a couple of penalties, Zander Whitehurst’s hat-trick of spectacular near-misses, flying challenges, and raucous support – Christ Church versus Wadham was, in a cliché, a classic cup tie. The only thing this Xchanging Cuppers quarter-final lacked was an upset, as Premier Division Wadham defeated their Second Division opponents 4-2, a scoreline that belied the tension and competitiveness of the game.
Wadham, reigning Premier Division champions, have had a disappointing league season so far; with just one win, only hapless Magdalen have protected them from the bottom spot. Christ Church, meanwhile, approached this tie off the back of a 6-0 home defeat by Keble, but, as anyone familiar with sport in this rugby-playing hub of Oxford knows, their never-say-die attitude means there’s no such thing as a foregone conclusion whenever Charlie Bryant’s men are involved.
The hosts threatened early on, with Paul Batty a prominent threat on the right of midfield, ably supported by Felix Goodman, the natural athlete playing at full-back who had a screamer, according to Felix Goodman. But Wadham broke the deadlock after 12 minutes with a goal reminiscent of Bolton Wanderers circa 2005. Wadham captain Josh Vivian launched a free-kick forward from inside his own half, and Jez Stothart, in true Kevin Davies style, won the flick-on, and Chris Wright, first to react to the second ball, nodded home. Somewhere in East London, Sam Allardyce shed a tear.
Christ Church didn’t have to wait long to equalise, though, as Wadham failed to deal with Batty’s corner, and the loose ball stood up nicely to be lashed home by Adam Knox. Or Chris Wallwork. Christ Church had two number 6’s. JCR football needs permanent squad numbers as a matter of urgency.
The match could have had a very different outcome if Christ Church’s prolific Whitehurst had a touch more luck. He first sent a long-range piledriver narrowly over after having dispossessed Anthony Ojukwu, then saw a meticulously-placed lob crash against the bar, before a dipping effort was parried by Wadham keeper Ben Szrater, who gathered the rebound before James Spiers could react.
With this plethora of missed opportunities, and an unsuccessfully penalty appeal after a handball in the Wadham box, Christ Church were further fired up when Vivian, already booked for an earlier foul on Spiers, lunged into a tackle and, amazingly, talked himself out of further punishment. Pressing for an early second-half lead, they were denied only by the solid shot-stopping of Szrater, who also boasts the mightiest hoof in JCR football.
Typically, Wadham regained the lead after some attractive interplay between Sam Hirst and Stothart, who slotted the ball past Laurence Holdsworth’s dive. While the Christ Church defenders were ruing having stopped play hoping for an offside call that never came, Whitehurst in particular seemed on a mission to change his side’s fortunes, and won a penalty after being brought down by Liam Moore. A cool finish brought the score to 2-2 with 15 minutes to play.
Immediately, though, a rare flowing move in a game that was more tenacious than creative led to Wright’s second. Dan Haile freed Hirst down the right, whose cross found its way to Wadham’s clinical marksman. Just a few minutes later, Bryant chopped down Wright in the Christ Church box, and Stothart converted the resulting penalty.
Thereafter, Christ Church struggled for meaningful possession, and the match was denied the thrilling climax that it had perhaps deserved. The OxStu man of the match award was set to be given to midfield powerhouse Stothart, before aerially competent centre-half Ojukwu declared, “I was man of the match,” which seems as convincing a reason as any, and a magnum of champagne is currently on its way to Ojukwu’s pidge.
With Vivian rushing to catch a train back to Bolton, vice-captain Hirst took press duties after the game. Through a translator, the Geordie expressed his pleasure that Wadham had “got the ball down and played some good football”, an opinion corroborated by nobody else present.
“There’s no reason not to be confident,” Hirst added about Wadham’s chances in their semi-final against Lincoln, “We can beat anyone on our day.” Hirst’s confidence will be tested come tomorrow’s clash at University Parks.
Worcester 2 – 0 Trinity (a.e.t.)
By Alex Tyndall at Lake Worcester
A performance full of fight from Trinity’s First XI was not enough to save them from a 2-0 extra-time defeat at the hands of Worcester in their Cuppers quarter-final on Friday.
Trinity, the home side, started brightly and more than matched the Worcester side two divisions above them in the JCR league in the game’s opening exchanges. As Worcester struggled to settle, the Trinity players were accomplished and fluid on the ball, cheered on by a sizeable supporting crowd. In the 20th minute, a scything run by Trinity’s Glenn Dobbs led to a scare for the Worcester defence but no Trinity strikers could connect with his right-footed cross. Eventually Worcester did find their feet and the best chance of the first half went to them as Adam Healey unleashed a stinging drive from the right-hand side of the penalty area which forced a powerful punch over the bar from the Trinity keeper. At times, the Worcester defence looked very shaky indeed and Trinity perhaps felt disappointed that the first 45 minutes ended with the scores at 0-0.
After the break it was Worcester who came out most aggressively. They thought they had pulled ahead in the 55th minute as they headed in from a corner but the referee disallowed the goal for a shove in the penalty area. The game continued as it had in the first half, with both sides showing flashes of quality but unable to break each other down. In the 75th minute the Trinity forwards saw a strike cleared agonisingly off the line as they looked for a breakthrough. As the clock ticked past the 80 minute mark, the play began to turn Worcester’s way. Trinity began to show signs of fatigue and the last ten minutes of normal time constituted a Herculean effort to hold onto a clean sheet.
As extra time began, Worcester kept the pressure on and it was only a matter of time before the exhausted Trinity defence gave way. In the fifth minute of extra time, Julian Austin struck for the visitors, finishing after some scrappy play inside the Trinity penalty area. Trinity simply had no more to give and their attacks became more speculative and desperate. It was no surprise when Austin struck again to double Worcester’s lead and kill the game off in the second half of extra time.
Considering the gap of two divisions between the teams, Trinity can take heart from a feisty performance, but the disappointment of coming up short having played so well will surely be painful. Worcester eventually had more stamina and quality and deserved the win. They march onwards to the Cuppers semi-finals where they will take on New College.
Lincoln 1 – 1 Teddy Hall (5-4 on pens)
By James Restall at Fortress Barties
A gargantuan display from goalkeeper Rob Kelly helped Lincoln College to a third Cuppers semi-final in four years, edging out a strong Teddy Hall side on penalties.
Kelly saved from Harry Lighton in the shootout and pulled off a string of impressive saves during the game to keep the first division side at bay. The Scot saved his best ‘til last, expertly parrying Jack Moran’s extra-time shot onto the bar before Guy Edwards headed the follow-up clear.
It was an imperious performance from Edwards, Chris Kneale-Jones and Mike Price in the heart of Lincoln’s defence – especially as Price had represented the Turl Street outfit in Rugby Cuppers not 24 hours beforehand. Spare a thought for captain Alec Gower who was hospitalised after clashing heads in the same fixture.
It was Hall’s second successive spot-kick exit from the competition and skipper Thomas Hobkinson rued his side’s missed chances. “It’s such a terrible way to lose a game,” he said. “Luck wasn’t on our side and we wish Lincoln all the best for the rest of the tournament.”
Hall could not capitalise on Lincoln’s tiring legs as the game dragged into extra time, with Blue Anthony Beddows and Moran squandering a number of gilt-edged chances to set up a semi-final with Wadham.
Edward Mole had to dig his side out of trouble midway through the second half after Nathan Riddell had put Lincoln a goal to the good from the spot.
The home side were awarded the penalty after Hobkinson bundled over Fergus Morgan. But Mole soon brought his side level, finishing with a low shot after Kelly had parried Moran’s strike.
Lincoln’s sole Blue Alex Biggs had the best chance of a scrappy first half, seeing his curling free kick tipped past the post.
Alex West, Lincoln’s stand-in skipper, fancies his side’s chances of reaching Iffley. “Having already beaten Wadham this year, albeit with a dilapidated squad, we are feel[ing] confident, but importantly not complacent,” he said.
Pembroke 1 – 2 New
(Mostly) by Edd Hermes on Twitter
The New camp was undoubtedly satisfied with the result of their quarter-final against Pembroke, although the hosts provided a stern test for the First Division high-flyers.
“Our grit, determination, and superior finishing thankfully shone through in the end,” summarised NCAFC press officer Edd Hermes, who added an important caveat, that, “the game was by no means an epic. I’d say it was even less of a high class affair than Ryan Giggs sleeping with his brother’s wife repeatedly for many years.”
Hermes was perhaps a touch too self-critical, as there was nothing about this game to make fans question the very foundations of human existence. In fact, Sam Donald’s goalscoring prowess had quite the opposite effect. His brace was “just what you’d expect from somebody who loves scoring goals as much as he does.”
Donald’s father, James, was also in attendance. Much like Frank Lampard Sr., he prefers to watch his son play from the upper tier; given the encumbrance of foliage beside the Parks pitch, the elder Donald’s presence at New’s semi-final may be in doubt, as he simply refuses to stand within 30 metres of the touchline. How this will affect New’s fortunes is yet to be determined.
Hermes’s summary was succinct: “rubbish pitch, hostile conditions, battling performance, well deserved win.” Regarding the challenges that lie ahead, he described Worcester as “alright.”
Far more problematic than the threat of Healy, Austin, et al is the potential instability brought about by deputy press officer ‘Katie Creams’, who is being “Courted” by a certain college captain. TheOxStu has been tipped off by an anonymous source that these “confused and passionate youths need the chance to finally find true love.” Only as long as it doesn’t come in the way of semi-final success.
Cuppers sem-final ties (2pm, Friday 15 February, both at University Parks):
Lincoln vs Wadham – OxStu predicts: 2-1. Lincoln with a late winner
New vs Worcester – OxStu predicts: 0 -3. Worcester into third straight final