Johnson-inspired James send message to rivals

Photo: Peter Iveson

Photo: Peter Iveson

JAMES FIRSTS 3
HALIFAX SECONDS 0

Two goals from Mark Johnson sealed an impressive win for James firsts this afternoon against a solid Halifax seconds side.

James captain Joe Jenkinson said after the game that it was “important” that his side, consisting of a number of new university team additions, got off to a winning start: “The more we play together, the more we will gel but we looked comfortable at the back today.”

James’ defence coped well throughout with a Halifax seconds side that will also take encouragement from a decent first half performance. Yet it was the flair of Mark McLeod, James Offord and, in particular, Mark Johnson that gave James their winning start in Group D. At times they were superb and this display sends a strong message to their rivals that they deserve to be considered amongst the favourites for the competition.

Yet at the approach of half time James were struggling. Despite some excellent play in midfield, they had failed to break through the well-drilled Halifax defence and, as a result, were beginning to look aggravated. Halifax man-of-the-match Ben Rea caused the firsts constant problems down the left hand side; McLeod epitomising his team’s frustration by cheaply fouling him after losing the ball.

Maggie_Aslet_009
Although not considered by many to be one of the pre-tournament favourites, James’ strong display today suggests that they could go far in the competition. Photograph by Maggie Aslet.

However James broke the deadlock just before the interval, with a moment of individual brilliance from Offord. Beating three defenders, he took the ball through the middle of the box and sent a determined strike into the bottom corner.

It was perhaps harsh on Halifax, who had played well enough in the first half to at least go into the break level. They had defended resolutely while creating a few half chances of their own: a searching cross having being edged over the bar in the first ten minutes and a Sam Dempster shot going straight into the hands of Don McMahon.

After the match Jamie Gibbs, Halifax captain, said that he was pleased with the team’s display and that they “should be able to qualify for the knock-out stages on the basis of that performance.”

Hal2 v Jam1 - Peter Iveson - 14/5/2010
Offord and Johnson combined excellently throughout the match, giving James real potency in attack. Photograph by Peter Iveson.

In the second half James initially looked as if they would have trouble closing out the game. Aquilino de Girolamo had a chance to double the lead but was unable to hit the target, and a Johnson free-kick in an excellent area came to nothing. It was Johnson however who would seal it, taking the ball from the edge of the D into the centre and striking it perfectly into the back of the net – surely a contender for goal of the first round.

With the game won, James began to play with some style. Some excellent passing moves, further dominance in midfield and impressive cameo appearances from substitutes Angus O’Brien and Alex Collins all combined to provide a slick second half display. A second from Mark Johnson in the last kick of the match capped a fine individual and team performance.

James firsts line up: Don McMahon, Joe Jenkinson (c), John Carroll, James Loftus, Oscar Lynch, Aquilino de Girolamo, Simon Mole, Richard Baxter, Simon Mole, Mark McLeod, James Offord, Mark Johnson (MotM)
Subs used: Alex Collins, Angus O’Brien

Halifax seconds line up: Dean Hanson, Dom Petschak, Tom Patrickson, Alex Simon, Ben Rea (MotM), Eamonn Geoghegan, Sam Dempster, Jonny Williamson, Harry Gompertz, Luke Charles, Jason Wistanley
Subs used: Joe Woods, Sahil Sha

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