The second men’s football semi-final pitted Vanbrugh firsts against a James side consisting of players from their second and third teams. James only had two firsts players in their starting line-up Jopson, who began the game in goal rather than in his usual position as striker, and Alhassan. Vanbrugh now became the favourites to qualify for varsity as James listed a surprising line-up.
The match began with both teams equally poised. Vanbrugh had a clear chance to put themselves ahead early on in the first half through captain Joe Lund. Lund, who latched onto Siddle’s pass, found himself in a one-on-one situation with the James goalkeeper. Lund managed to evade the out-rushing Jopson and fire a shot on target, however it was headed off the line and away. The clearance inadvertently allowed the ball to fall to Carruthers at the top of the James box, and as usual Carruthers’ technical ability was spot on as he made great connection with the ball and just volleyed over the cross-bar. Vanbrugh started the game at fast pace, making it clear that they have every intention of qualifying for varsity.
As the first half progressed James began to look more clinical in the final third. James surprisingly worked well as a team finding each other’s runs instinctively. In particular, Caldwell and Foster were able to break and attack quickly laying the ball into target man Jamie Allan, who held up the ball and brought his team mates into play. This strategy paid off as James took an early lead. There was excellent build up play and passing throughout the James midfield, leading to a long cross being directed at Allan. The Vanbrugh goalkeeper came off his line and attempted to punch the ball away but Allan’s towering figure and physicality enabled him to get to the ball first, heading it into the back of the net. Without the large majority of their first team, James put pressure on Vanbrugh as they took the lead with the first goal of the game.
Vanbrugh, in order to reduce the deficit, substituted attacker Adam Lewis on for midfielder Callum Long. This tactical substitution initially seemed to be working for Lund’s men with Lewis’ pace and movement causing problems for the James defence. Lewis’ presence also removed pressure from striker Sides who was struggling to find space and attack the ball.
The first half was equally contested with both teams coming close to scoring. Troy Carruthers at the heart of the Vanbrugh midfield showed vision and quality as he distributed the ball to Vanbrugh’s wide men. This allowed Vanbrugh to attack down the wings and look dangerous in front of goal. Carruthers also demonstrated his ability high up the field, as he found himself playing just behind the striker, where he was most influential. Similarly, James came close to doubling their lead through Litter and Caldwell. Litter, in particular, was able to find space in between the Vanbrugh midfield and defence as he pressed on forward.
Vanbrugh’s most exciting link-up play came during the closing stages of the first half as Siddle equalised to bring the score to 1-1. Joe Lund’s brilliant vision saw him switch play by lofting a diagonal through ball to Liam Sides on the right side of the James goal. Sides, unmarked, passed the ball across the face of goal to Siddle at the back post, Siddle was then able to slot home from close range. Vanbrugh showed their class and composure in the attack as they bemused a caught-out James defence.
The first half ended with the score 1-1. Vanbrugh unexpectedly went 1-0 down to a James side who were missing the large majority of their first team. Everything was still to play for in the second half with the game tied. The second half began with James firsts striker Jopson, moving outfield and swapping with Litter who would now play in goal.
With the second half underway, both Vanbrugh and James stepped up their intensity. Vanbrugh had the best opportunities of the first period of the second half with Sides again finding himself in the box with space. Carruthers became the pivot of this Vanbrugh team as he facilitates their switch from defence to attack so effectively. Carruthers’ agile movement and passing range allowed him to find Sides who was left unmarked. Sides was able to run in on goal with only the keeper to beat but Litter came off his line and made an excellent tackle. The ball dropped to Adam Lewis who failed to make the most of the rebound. Vanbrugh looked to be the most dangerous side especially as they attacked decisively through the dynamic trio of Carruthers, Lund and Sides.
Vanbrugh’s high tempo play during the second half was illustrative of their desire to win the game. Soon enough Vanbrugh scored their second and led for the first time this game. Carruthers’ pace and trickery won him a free kick outside of the box as he was unfairly brought down. Carruthers stepped-up to take the free kick ad crossed the ball into the box looking for a Vanbrugh head to tap the ball in. Callum Long was unable to connect with the ball and so it fell to Sides who tapped home at the near post. Vanbrugh 2-1 James.
Lund’s men did not give up and continued to attack in numbers. They killed off the game during the closing minutes of the second half, extending their lead to 3-1. Vanbrugh full back, Tabas, showed his speed and ball control as he darted forward circumventing the James midfield. Tabas was patient on the ball as he looked for an opening which was provided by Joe Lund’s intelligent movement off the ball. Lund created space for himself which enabled Tabas to pass a through ball to him and slot passed Litter’s near post into the back of the net.
The game ended with Vanbrugh winning 3-1 and qualifying for varsity. Vanbrugh will play Derwent firsts on Sunday in order to decide who will represent the university as its first and second team.
After the match, Joe Lund gave spoke to Nouse and gave his comments on the game. He said “We’re going to Durham and the other teams best watch out. Neither us or James had our strongest teams, we played Callum Long. Both teams played pretty bad, it was an awful game but we won”.
James captain Rich Williams also spoke to Nouse, he said “We’ve essentially played our threes team against a ones team and we equipped ourselves well, there’s a lot to be proud of”. In regards to the James first team not playing, Williams commented “they decided to play against the old boys in a game so we decided to do a mash-up of twos and threes players. But I don’t think they looked that much better than us and we look forward to the college cup now as we have sent out a message that our teams are going to be hard to beat”.
Vanbrugh (4-5-1): Donnell-Ford (GK); Glanvill, Waldock, Brennan, Tabas; Siddle, Carruthers, Vyvyan, Lund (C); Sides.
James (4-5-1): Jopson (GK), Williams (C), Trewarfa, Pugh, Embelton; Cauldwell, Foster, Alhassan, Lawson, Litter; Allan.
Man of the match: Troy Carruthers