Halifax firsts have had a torturous year of waiting for another crack at the Cup that so many observers thought would already be in their possession come 2011.
Those months spent wondering how they could have crashed out in the semi-finals so ignominiously last yer, losing 5-1 to eventual winners Alcuin, seem to have imbued their team with a desperate desire not to experience the same fate.
Now they are at least partially vindicated after beating Vanbrugh 2-1 to secure the berth in the final that should have probably been theirs this time last year. The manner in which they have reached the final has been impressive for the neutral and ominous for their rivals.
Blessed with a rich seam of talent from which to pick his team captain Tom Ragan has constructed an energetic, forceful outfit that attacks as a fluid unit and defends with imperious ease.
This astuteness coupled with moments of magic from their most important figures, Conor Brennan’s stunning opener against Vanbrugh being a good example of this, makes them a daunting proposition.
They will face the winner of the other semi-final between Halifax seconds and Derwent firsts. The second string for the ‘Fax dispatched Ruari Phillips’ James thirds 3-1 in the quarters, whilst Derwent were taken to penalties by Alcuin where they squeaked through largely thanks to goakeeper Seb Treasure.
Top scorer Hamish Denham returns after missing the quarter final for Harry Pearson’s side whilst Derwent are without Xander Brinkworth and David Kirk who have suffered a heel injury and ligament damage and a hairline fracture to the ankle respectively.
Phil Bowers – Alcuin firsts captain
“I think Halifax firsts will prove to be worthy winners. They have added defensive steel and a will to win to their game. That combined with the talent they have should see them to victory regardless of their opposition”
Sam Lewis – Goodricke firsts captain
“I’d have to go with Halifax firsts. They’re stronger everywhere. Derwent, defensively, are very good but Halifax have game-changers, your Brennans, your Days and they’ll come good in the final”
Phil Taylor – Vanbrugh firsts captain
“Halifax firsts. They have brought a few freshers in who have taken them to the next level. They’re so difficult to keep quiet and have kept it tight at the back all tournament so it’s hard to see any team beating them”
Simon Mole – James firsts captain
“It’s got to be Halifax firsts. They’ve got a very good captain and a really good team. They have always looked very good on paper but this year they have probably performed even better than that.”