That was the first week that was

Start ’em Sit ’em rounds up the first week of College Cup action

The first week of the College Cup is over, so what have we learnt?

Well, not that much really. Halifax look good (no surprise there), James also look very good (a little bit of surprise there) and Goodricke play a lot of good football but have trouble converting their chances (again, no surprise).

Turning our eyes towards the seconds teams, Halifax and Goodricke look as if they’ll push Langwith firsts all the way for that second position in Group D (expect James to take the top spot comfortably), Vanbrugh’s second team looks worse than their third and there’s a feeling that Derwent twos might have been a little over-hyped.

The fixture of the round was always going to be the ‘Big Three’ clash between Derwent and Alcuin. And here we had perhaps the week’s biggest shock, as slight-favourites Derwent were defeated 3-1.

Alcuin go into this competition as the holders and it was a tad surprising how little hype there was surrounding them pre-tournament. Last year they won stylishly, playing excellent football in the opening stages (I once heard them being compared to Barcelona, honest), but adapting their game well in the latter rounds to scrap past the bigger sides.

Despite being raised as a James-er, I couldn’t help but develop a a soft spot for Alcuin last year. Despite not having as many university regulars as others, they gelled together at the right moment and were undoubtedly the deserved winners at the end.

Yet they looked to have changed their style again. On Thursday they played clinically and simply – Derwent looked settled and in control for large periods but could not get past the outstanding partnership of Jake Delaney and Paul Reiss at the back. Last year Delaney was injured for most of the tournament, but he looks like he’ll be a hugely influential player this time around.

Taking off the skilful Parris Williams for the much more direct campus-cult-figure Udy Onwudike at half time perhaps summed up Alcuin’s style. And it worked – Derwent might have been missing the influential Greg Gardner, and there is a long way to go in this compeition, but Alcuin have sent an early warning to those that doubted them.

Jake Delaney’s strong presence in defence helped Alcuin firsts to a 3-1 victory over the much-fancied Derwent firsts. Photograph by Maggie Aslet.

They weren’t the only ones to do so however. Halifax’s 8-0 win might have been against Goodricke thirds, but it suggests that they are fired up to win this tournament. A team so good that they have to move the university first’s top striker out of position in order to accommodate all their talent, they have quality all over the pitch and deserve to be called favourites.

Elsewhere, James made a case for the ‘Big Three’ to become known as the ‘Big Four’ with an impressive first performance against Halifax seconds. Like ‘fax firsts, they undoubtedly have the players – Mark Johnson, Mark McLeod, James Offord and the whole defence looked brilliant on Friday – but will need to make sure that they all fit together if they’re going to have a chance of winning the whole competition.

In terms of Fantasy Football, it was all looking a bit quiet until Friday, when two players suddenly fired themselves to the top of the leader board. Mark Johnson was simply outstanding for James, while Nick Dheir, valued at £5m, looks a very shrewd buy indeed (although how he managed to claim that second goal, I do not know.)

There’s also a sense that some of the big buys might not be so profitable. Highest valued player Conor Brennan will not score as many goals as intially thought if he continues to play on the left and most-picked forward Parris Williams looks set to face strong competition for his spot in an Alcuin team containing Dan Cox, Joe Cooper and Udy Onwudike. Meanwhile Sam Mellor’s position on the highest points table – joint third despite being in a losing James seconds team – shows how this year’s new rules might throw up some very strange results.

Ah well, we’ve all made our beds now, we’ll just have to see how it pans out. My team is embarrassingly low down in the table (not one of my strikers played a full 60) so I wouldn’t listen to any of my advice anyway. Feel free to suggest below any players you think will rack up the points next week.

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