Worcester College Firsts booked their place in the Cuppers final with a commanding 2-0 victory against New College at the University Parks, courtesy of a second-half brace by striker Adam Healy. The pink-clad Worcester squad bossed possession for most of the game, severely limiting New College’s opportunities on goal, and if anything it is a testament to the quality of the New defence that Worcester only struck twice in the ninety minutes.
Conditions going into the match couldn’t have been more perfect after Friday’s postponement due to snow. The ground had firmed up and the weather was still and clear. Only New College’s keeper Will Mycroft seemed to be upset by the sun, turning up to play the first half in a beige baseball cap. It didn’t seem to affect his performance as he made a brilliant save seven minutes in to tip a drive from the Worcester attack over the bar. Both teams had a sizeable cohort of supporters on the touchline, and in the opening exchanges it was the Worcester fans, along with their imaginatively named mascot The Worcester Duck, who had the most to smile about. As they had in the quarter-finals, Worcester came out and played a masterful passing game, spraying passes from mad angles all over the pitch. New had to content themselves with attacking on the occasional break and always being ready to defend robustly. For the opening twenty minutes they did so with great poise, frustrating the Worcester offensive pairing of Julian Austin and Adam Healy.
New did look dangerous from set pieces, however, and in the nineteenth minute a free kick was fizzed into the Worcester box and found its way into the net. Unfortunately for the New fans, the ball had been all but thrown into the net by Victor Mallet in what has to be the most blatant Hand of God that Cuppers has ever seen. The referee being blessed with a working pair of eyes, he rightly disallowed the goal and took Mallet’s name(possibly as a hopeful for Blue volleyball? He’s good with his hands).
Worcester continued to press but the solidity of the New defence was clearly frustrating them. Julian Austin, perhaps bored of trying to find gaps in New’s back four, unleashed a madly optimistic left-footed shot from thirty yards out just past the half hour mark which ended up closer to the corner flag than the goal. Perhaps to show him how it was really done, Worcester’s captain Andrea Caio did almost exactly the same two minutes later, with a similar result.
New had another flash of quality on forty minutes. As Worcester dithered to clear a corner, their centre-back lashed a screaming drive that just grazed the top of the crossbar. It was pounded so powerfully that it took almost five minutes for the Worcester ‘keeper to extricate the ball from the hedge it landed in. The score of 0-0 at the break was a fair reflection of the deadlock between the two sides, and going into the second half New might even have thought they could snatch it.
Worcester had other plans, however, and five minutes after the break they finally found the gap they were looking for. Adam Healy accepted a cross from the right-hand side and casually stroked it into the bottom left corner of the goal to put Worcester ahead. New were under the cosh and the chances were all launched in Will Mycroft’s direction. Worcester’s Ben Sloman was unlucky not to add a second for Worcester on the hour as he headed a ball agonisingly over the bar from a corner. Tom Phelan tried to get in on the scoring action two minutes later but hit a drive that made Austin and Caio’s from the first half look well-aimed. Not to be outdone, the New college attack demonstrated they were equally capable of missing the goal by a country mile, as Charlie Court hit an almost equally appalling drive soon after. As in the first half New’s best, if not only, chances were coming from set pieces. A Rory-Delap-style throw in the 70th minute looked threatening before the keeper met it with grateful hands. However, it was with an air of inevitability that Healy doubled his tally for the match with five minutes remaining, heading home from a corner.
It could easily have been more than two for Worcester, but they won’t look back regretting missed chances. They go on to Iffley to fight for their third Cuppers title in a row.