Vanbrugh Firsts 2 Derwent Firsts 1
By Nabeel Moosa.
Any hopes or ‘dreamz’ Derwent had of knocking out cup rivals Vanbrugh were dashed as Vanbrugh came from behind to ensure their College Cup challenge stays alive. ‘The Fresh Prince of Derwent’ Dreamz Murphy, donning Will Smith-like multicolour trainers, opened the scoring with a clinical finish early in the first half. Vanbrugh striker Ali Prince levelled just before half time and bagged his brace late in the second from a free kick to guarantee Vanbrugh were victorious in this clash of titans.
Anything other than a victory for Vanbrugh would have meant they would have to contest the College Plate instead of the more prestigious Cup. Derwent striker Dreamz added fuel to the fire prior to Tuesday; when asked about the upcoming Vanbrugh clash, he stated – “They’re already out, we will beat them”. Derwent were essentially through to the quarter-finals after a series of quality performances but would, no doubt, have loved to knock out one of the early tournament favourites. Their ruthless, watertight defence had yet to leak a goal in their three matches to date and their attacking prowess was not too shabby either, averaging more than three goals a game.
Vanbrugh on the other hand, knew they were going to be up against it and had to put in a performance much different to their recent run of games where they looked shaky in defence and lacked creativity up front. Captain Tom Sheldrick confident of Vanbrugh’s chances explained, “We’re at our best when we’re ‘backs-to-the-wall’, and these boys have just got an awesome will to win.”
Things couldn’t have started much worse for Vanbrugh when ‘Dreamz’ was played through on the right hand side of the Vanbrugh area and with a sweet first time hit, placed it into the far corner past Paul Taylor. Despite the goal, there was still an under-current of tension and it boiled over when Vanbrugh skipper Sheldrick was rightly adjudged to have fouled ‘Dreamz’, who then decided to, what seemed from the sidelines, jump on/straddle/smother Sheldrick to the ground. The confused referee, incredibly, saw nothing wrong with the reaction and awarded the wound-up Murphy with a mere yellow card, when a more experienced officiator (or one with bigger cojones) would have had no hesitation in whipping out the red.
Once the multicoloured handbags were away, Vanbrugh pushed on for the elusive equaliser but were finding it hard to get past the solid Derwent backline. All the while, Derwent midfield duo Nav Jabarkhyl and Chris Barnett were passing quite elegantly around the pitch and a Derwent second seemed the more likely. However, against the run of play Ali Prince latched onto a flicked on corner and his scuffed half volley deflected past the keeper to Vanbrugh delight. Vanbrugh could have doubled their tally soon after but midfield engine Matt ‘Potter’ Oliver could only poke wide from close range. The game was finely poised at half time with Vanbrugh on the front foot but still needing a goal to win.
Early in the second half an uncharacteristic error by Dan Hewitt nearly saw Derwent capitalise but to Hewitt’s relief Paul Taylor stuck out a strong hand low to his right to deny Derwent another lead. Breaths were baited once again when Sheldrick brought down Murphy, but this challenge evoked no reaction from the striker, who was floored by the cynical challenge. Sheldrick, who had been shown a yellow for his earlier rufflings with the music-man Dreamz, was lucky to stay on the pitch: again the referee ducked out of a difficult, but crucial, decision. Then came the defining moment of the game and possibly the cup; Man of the Match Ali Prince was awarded a free kick just outside the Derwent box and with a single step back, nonchalantly curled the ball past the wall into the bottom left corner. The excitement was too much for some, as a certain campus Ron Weasley look-a-like managed to get knocked over by stationary wooden benches in the ecstasy.
Yet straight after, that age-old cliché, ‘you’re most vulnerable when you’ve just scored’, proved itself once-again as Paul Ward-Jones belted one onto the crossbar after Chris Barnett’s piercing through-ball gave him a sight of goal. Searching for a reply of their own Derwent turned up the pressure on the Vanbrugh defence and Greg Gardener almost equalised when he fired a low shot heading straight for the bottom corner only for substitute Dan Radford to block. The late introduction Matt Scaysbrook – Vanbrugh’s top Fantasy Points scorer from their second unit – to sure up midfield worked, and the match petered out to the final whistle.
And so it is, a reinvigorated Vanbrugh march onto the quarter-finals where they will need to step up to the challenge once again. But you’d be a fool to write off last term’s league champions. Derwent will no doubt feel a little hard-done by this result but will continue as one of the other strong favourites for the Cup. Captain Sheldrick commended his team’s performance after the match, highlighting in particular the steel and determination of the defence, “Sam Tuck in particular was superb and Princey showed his class with both goals.”
Goodricke Seconds 2 Langwith 1
By John Halstead
‘Holy Christ’. That’s what everyone thought after watching this ridiculous match. If Alf Ramsey had been alive to see it, he would have turned in his grave.
It was a mix of shambolic lack of shape and an almost suspiciously monumental level of profligacy by Goodricke. Never before have I seen so many chances go begging. Women fainted on the sidelines, shaken by the incessant sound of ball on post, ball on bar and ball on man. Knowing they had to win by an apparently implausible seven goals, Goodricke came out of the traps faster than a dog with a jetpack. Langwith helped matters for the neutral by going for a 4-0-6 formation, tactically leaving a huge gap between the defence and the midfield, allowing Goodricke’s midfielders time and space for a million bites at the world’s biggest metaphorical cherry. One of Langwith’s defenders, garbed in his Scotty Too Hotty-esque denim shorts, seemed almost to invite the Goodricke onslaught with his ramshackle appearance. Goodricke hit the post more than a demented mailman. This reporter counted at least 12 attempts on goal in the first half alone.
Frustration started to mount in the Goodricke ranks, each player hurled recriminations at the other’s lamentable miss. But as Goodricke’s tidal wave of pressure continued, something unbelievable happened. On a rare foray into the Goodricke half, Langwith striker Matt Cullen turned and struck a stupendous 40 yard half volley into the top corner. Goal of the Tournament perhaps. It was like a trawlerfull of seven men Sisypheanly trying to catch a small mackerel in a lake and then some bloke with a stick and some old rope rocking up, catching a killer whale and then pummelling it unconscious with his bare hands.
By the end of the first half, Goodricke should have been about 12 nil up, but were 1 nil down. Such is life. In the second half, Goodricke didn’t threaten as much, with Langwith deciding to play some people in midfield, which yielded more pressure on ‘Tank’ and Astbury in defence. Goodricke Man of the Match Rob Shanley, though occasionally lazy, pulled the strings in the middle and rarely surrendered possession. Goodricke pulled level through Coupland, then in a masterful substitution, captain Sneddon brought himself on, and promptly tapped in from a corner.
If Langwith had walked away with anything from the game it would have been daylight robbery of the like not seen since Fagin and his pubescent brood ruled the roost over urban London. Incredibly, they nearly did. In the last minute, Shanley gave away a foul on the edge for a reckless kick on Cullen. The resulting shot forced Hinkling into an acrobatic save. But what may really come back to haunt Langwith is their fielding of two ineligible players. The petty EU-like regulations of Messrs Lewis, Harrison-Davies and Oliver could wrap up Langwith in a mummy of red tape and drag them into a pitch-dark plateless morgue.