College Football: James 3-1 Derwent

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Photos: Zoe Bennell

A 3-1 victory for James heralded the return of College Football to 22 Acres following a weather-enforced hiatus. An early strike from Ralph Gill and a Matt Singleton double put paid to a Derwent resistance spearheaded by the spirited Josh Bew, and secured the Black Swan all three points.

The opening minutes of the game were consummately controlled by James, and it did not take long at all for them to storm into the lead, with captain Ralph Gill drilling home following a Felix Aylett flap. Derwent were keen not to let heads drop, and equalised soon after, Josh Bew thumping home off a Joe Eyles cross. The match developed into a high-tempo end to end affair, with James creating the better chances: one such chance for Andy Jopson slipping through their fingers- as Aylett closed the angle, Jopson sidefooted horribly wide. Derwent would make things happen in front of Andy Balzan’s goal when another dangerous Eyles cross found Ryan Gwinnett lurking in the area. Fortunately for James, the attacking midfielder could only blast high over the bar from 15 yards.

Felix Aylett was forced to close down another onrushing James forward just moments later- though James’ Davies would break clean through with the ball; a combination of the goalkeeper and right-back Sam Weighall ensured that the goal threat was confidently neutralised. The two sides would go in level at the break. After the restart, there was a controversial moment as a fine Derwent attack resulted in Jamie Trant tucking the ball into the net from close range, only to see the referee signal for offside. Derwent’s spunky resilience meant at this stage they certainly seemed full value for the point they were achieving- a stark contrast to the way James tore them apart in last season’s title decider. Just as Derwent felt they had began to dictate the tempo and control the match themselves, James lashed out with a clinical Matt Singleton finish from a slide-rule Davies through ball to turn the tide yet again.

At 2-1 all credit must be given to Derwent, who rallied in the face of adversity, forcing Andy Balzan to palm away a well-hit Josh Bew strike. Jamie Trant then spanked an emphatic volley off the crossbar with Balzan well beaten.
Then James scored again. Derwent switched off at a corner kick, and when Jacob Tapper’s downward header lacked conviction, Matt Singleton was alive to the situation and easily swept home from the penalty spot.
At 3-1, Derwent heads definitely dropped. James began to completely dominate in possession inspired by economical use of the ball by Ralph Gill. There was still time for Sam Earle to test Balzan with a good effort, and Josh Bew to blot his copybook with a howler of a miss before the referee called time on a pulsating and eventful match.

James deserved to win it though. By finding the net in key moments when it looked as though Derwent were back on the horse and creating chances, James were able to eat away at their morale and force them out of the game.
Derwent never once waved the white flag though, and they will take great confidence from their resilience in the face of a very talented and able James outfit.

James captain Ralph Gill: “It’s good to be playing again. The game was excellent and competitive, but almost too open at times. It’s great to get the win, and we embrace the challenge of the Varsity qualifiers. We’ll do our best to win.”

Derwent captain Dave Belshaw: “I don’t think there’s an awful lot between the two sides. James were dangerous, but we created chances ourselves. The difference is they took them and we didn’t, which is disappointing. I’m excited about Varsity qualifiers, and we’ll do our best to get the results that matter.”

VISION MOTM: Matt Singleton

JAMES (4-4-1-1): Balzan, Sangha, Elliot, Alhassan, Edwards, Jopson, Gill, Davies, Ferrao, Briars, Singleton

DERWENT (4-2-3-1): Aylett, Weighall, Tapper, Whittall, Delay, Earle, Kirby, Eyles, Gwinnett, Trant, Bew
Subs: Fotheringham, Nozaki

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