Photos by Daniel Golton
They drew their first game of the tournament against Alcuin 2nds, were written off by everybody as contenders to win, had a casualty in the first half and had to regroup after an hour and a half stoppage but, despite it all, Halifax 1sts have won the College Cup.
The fixture saw a repeat of last year’s final, with Derwent the opponents once more, but the game itself could not have been more different, with few real chances; a strange encounter on the whole, but one Derwent will feel they perhaps could have made more of. While Derwent made the brighter start, they were unable to capitalise on this pressure before the stoppage. The first real chance of the game fell to Ryan Gwinnett, after an Ollie Harrison free kick found him in the far corner of the box, but his header was tipped over the bar by Jonny Simm, playing his final game in a ‘Fax shirt.
Derwent came even closer from the resulting corner, Harrison hitting a powerful volley that rocketed against the bar and bounced over. Halifax were unable to match their opponents with positive forward play, struggling to bring attackers Meckin and Heath into the game. Their frustration showed; Alex Tringham threw the ball down in anger after being penalised for a challenge where he won the ball – the ball hit the referee, who was less than pleased with Tringham’s reaction, however he wasn’t cautioned. Seed was then booked for a foul on Harrison. As Halifax’s anger at decisions not going their way grew, Derwent continued to dominate. Eddie Fotheringham, with their latest attempt at taking the lead, cut inside and fired in a shot that just whisked over the bar, with Simm looking worried it was going to drop in.
With five minutes remaining of the first half, Danny Jones stayed down after what looked like a nasty fall. After a few minutes it seemed definite that he could not move his leg, with first aiders suspecting that he had dislocated his knee. An ambulance was called and, due to the seriousness of the injury, the game could not restart until Jones had professional assistance to help him move off the pitch.
The game couldn’t get back underway until an hour and a half later, with both teams trying to stay pumped and alert during the stoppage.
Halifax seemed to play much better after the pause, finally able to get the ball forward to Meckin and Heath and trouble the Derwent defence. Garo Heath showed great strength to hold the ball up when he received it in the box, but his pass to Conor Meckin was too close to Felix Aylett, who was able to collect the ball comfortably. Dunning raced forward to latch onto the end of a pass forward, with Heath lurking in the box, but Tapper managed to hook the ball away just in time.
The game looked destined for penalties, with both defences looking very solid and no one really coming close to scoring the goal that both teams were desperate for. Ollie Marsh came close to putting one in his own net, though, but managed to clear the ball off the line after it was dropped into the box.
Derwent had another chance to deliver, what would be at this late stage, a fatal blow for ‘Fax, again from a set piece where they looked most dangerous. Gwinnett’s shot curled low into the box but was saved by Simm, who saw the ball late but got down to stop it going any further.
The tackles began to be more lethal as the final five minutes of this year’s tournament approached, with Mirhire Overo Tarimo booked for a foul on Keiran Ginnoy. Ginnoy then whipped the resulting free kick into the box, but Tarimo was able to clear the danger. His clearance fell back to Ginnoy, who booted the ball back into the box and, as the ball bounced, it fell to Matt Seed, who had stayed up for the free kick. Seed’s shot forced a great save from Aylett, but running onto the rebound was Garo Heath, who smacked the ball into the net; a sucker punch from the holders.
Halifax celebrated wildly, finally breaking down the blues who had kept them frustrated for so long, now knowing there was no way back. With so little time left they were unable to respond and the final whistle blew, to the delight of the Halifax players, who can now celebrate winning their 3rd College Cup in four years, an amazing achievement, especially knowing that this year no one expected them to hold onto their title.
His usual joking aside, winning captain Connor McCoy seemed really proud of his team, and told Vision he had faith in his side all the way through the competition: “I did expect us to win, I really did. I know we drew against Alcuin 2nds at the start, but honestly I think we get better; we step it up against the good teams, solid in defence today. I know they hit the bar, they didn’t really get through one on one at all. We’ve had good players, Ollie Marsh coming in, Sean Kearney, we changed the back four which has been solid, Garo’s been top class upfront; we’re just the best college by a mile.” While this was a lighthearted way to end the post-match interview, with their current record and continued dominance in the competition, it’s hard to disagree.