DERWENT 1 – 3 JAMES
James boosted their chances of claiming the spring term league title via a well-fought 3-1 victory over Derwent this morning on a sun-drenched 22 Acres.
The opening stages were an extremely tight affair as both sides struggled to break down their opponent’s water-tight defences. Any shots that did find their way through by either side were directed straight at a goalkeeper.
However, James grew in confidence as the game went on, taking an increasing hold on possession. James striker Matt Singleton gave Derwent ‘keeper Felix Aylett his first real test of the morning when his header was tipped over the bar from a corner.
Unfortunately for Derwent, James took the lead from the resulting corner; goalkeeper Aylett flapped at the ball as it flew over the six-yard area and the ball fell nicely for team captain Ralph Gill to tuck home with ease.
Credit where it’s due, Derwent refused to let their heads drop and they forced an equaliser just a few minutes later. As Derwent attacked quickly on the break, a looping, inswinging cross from the left side from Joe Eyles picked out the head of Josh Bew, who cushioned the ball past a unfortunate James goalkeeper, Andy Balzan.
Both sides proved to be very hard to break down for the rest of the half, with most chances coming on the break. James were still proving to be the more creative side and more goal-scoring opportunities came there way; James Davies and Freddie Ferrao both came close, whilst Andy Jopson failed to direct a header on target in the dying moments of the half.
Derwent started off much more brightly in the second half as their balls down the channels began to find their targets. After a powerful run by Bew towards the by-line, he found a cross to Jamie Trant at the far post, but his half-volleyed effort flew inches wide.
Trant thought that he had put Derwent ahead around the hour mark; he was put through on goal finished well at the near post but the referee had already (rather questionably) adjudged Trant to have been in an offside position.
This certainly came as a wake-up call for the Swans as they ramped up the pressure against the Derwent defence as holes began to appear. Jopson found space to the right of the penalty area to shoot on goal; the ball found its way through the onrushing ‘keeper’s legs but left-back Jules Delay was on hand to clear the ball off the line.
But Delay’s efforts were somewhat to no avail as James took the lead for the second time a few moments later. Davies’ one-touch through ball put Singleton through on goal, narrowly beating Aylett to the ball as he tucked the ball past him and into the goal.
As Derwent pushed forward in search of a second equaliser, the game exploded into an open match full of chances, pace and creativity. James’ Ferrao and Derwent’s Bew both forced good saves from their opposing goalkeepers, a wicked Trant volley fizzed off the bar, and Delay was forced into making another terrific goal-line clearance.
However, Derwent’s escapades going forward were leaving them open at the back and James’ eventually extended their lead to 3-1 fifteen minutes from time. A dangerous cross from Ferrao was headed down in the box by a Derwent defender where Singleton was once again on hand to volley the ball home.
Derwent maintained their fighting spirit right up until the final whistle in hope of bringing about a miraculous draw; Sam Earle and Mike Whittall had efforts on target but it was to no avail.
An overjoyed James captain, Ralph Gill, wasn’t just pleased with his side’s performance; he was also pleased with the weather not cancelling fixtures: “It’s good to be playing again; I’m so happy to see it back. I think the game itself was a really excellent game, really competitive… I’m really pleased to come away with a victory”.
A down-trodden Derwent captain, Dave Belshaw, who managed his team from the sideline, told Nouse: “I don’t think there was an awful lot between the two sides, obviously James have got some dangerous attacking players and, fair play to them, they took their chances better than we did today – our finishing wasn’t clinical enough. We had a few players missing today, especially defensively, and the lads that have come in have done really well”.
Both teams may end up playing each other again next week if either side progresses past the semi-final stage at the Varsity qualifiers next weekend, something both captains are relishing with both teams looking to field full-strength squads.
Derwent: Aylett, Weighall, Tapper, Whittall, Delay, Eyles (Nozaki), Earle, Kirby, Trant, Gwinnett (Fotheringham), Bew
James: Balzan, Sangha, Elliot, Alhasan, Edwards, Jopson, Gill (C), Davies, Ferrao, Briars, Singleton
Man of the match: Matt Singleton