CVQ Men’s Football Semi-Final: James 5-1 Vanbrugh

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Photos: Zoe Bennell

Following something of an upset yesterday as Halifax narrowly beat Derwent on penalties to win a place in the College Varsity Qualifying final, Sunday’s semi would provide no such shock as James College put five past Vanbrugh. It wasn’t plain sailing for the Black Swan though, with Vanbrugh doggedly getting themselves back in the game at 2-1 before the class of James showed. A Matt Singleton double either side of half time put James in control, captain Max Brewer would head it back to 2-1, before Freddie Ferrao, Dan Haresnape and Will Baker pounced to put the result beyond doubt.

James would dominate the majority of the first half. Andy Jopson’s cross would just evade Dan Haresnape before Amir Alhassan stung the gloves of Aaron Hooper from 20 yards. Max Brewer led by example at the back for Vanbrugh, keeping Freddie Ferrao in his pocket for long periods and protecting Chris Wignall very well. James Briars would break Vanbrugh’s resolve, bursting through to force Hooper into action, diving to his left to palm away Briars’ speculative effort. Jack Coy was also pivotal in keeping James at bay, matching Andy Jopson well on numerous occasions to prevent the James winger getting goalside. The towering figure of Ralph Gill would leap highest at a corner, but his powerful angled header bounced wide of the near post.

James’ first goal came as no surprise. They were in control of proceedings as they finally broke Vanbrugh’s resolve, with Andy Jopson first hammering a low shot across goal which bounced out off the post, before Matt Singleton made no mistake from the right side of the area, arrowing a left footed strike across goal and into the net for 1-0.

The second half began in controversial fashion as Singleton found himself in the thick of things again, crashing a shot off both posts, causing the referee to momentarily revel in indecision before resolving to award a throw-in and not a goal. James wouldn’t have to wait long for a second goal though, with Ralph Gill on a marauding run down the right flank, sumptuously flicking over Jack Coy before racing into the box and returning Singleton’s one-two to the striker, who coolly rolled the ball into the net.

Vanbrugh wasted no time in getting back into the game, with a John Sanderson freekick careering viciously into the path of Max Brewer, whose precise back-header took the ball beyond the reach of Andy Balzan to halve the deficit. Freddie Ferrao had been working hard to evade the attentions of Brewer, and he ultimately prevailed with a well-timed run into the box to score a mirror image of Singleton’s goal, smashing the ball across goal for 3-1.

The third goal finally broke the Vanbrugh resistance, and their lax defending was capitalised upon by Dan Haresnape, stabbing home from inside the box for 4-1.  The game was long over when Will Baker made it 5 with another cool finish across the keeper, and Vanbrugh will look back at Brewer’s header and their period of pressure which followed as an opportunity missed to really make their mark in the game.

VISION MOTM: Josh Spurling – unsung hero in the James midfield, vital in ball retention and sensible decision making.

James captain Ralph Gill: ‘We controlled the game well and were able to keep the ball well on such a big pitch. They were a composed outfit and we had to keep our heads in testing conditions, but we came through strongly. Fitness is a concern ahead of the final, but I’m confident we can win.’

Vanbrugh captain Max Brewer: ‘We competed well for seventy minutes, but couldn’t make it count when we got ourselves in the game at 2-1. I had to change things and go 4-4-2, it was a bold plan which unfortunately backfired. I’m proud of the boys though, and on another day we could have got something.’

James(4-2-3-1): Balzan, Sangha, Alhassan, Gill, Edwards, Jopson, Haresnape, Fox, Baker, Briars, Singleton

Subs: Austin, Spurling, Ferrao

Vanbrugh(4-4-1-1): Hooper, Wignall, Brewer, Brennan, Coy, Picknell, Siddell, Watkins, Craine, Softley, Sides

Subs: Priest, Sanderson, Potts