James 1sts – 6 (Axford 32, Gill 39, 52, Jopson 67, Jobling 72, Tuite 77)
Derwent 2nds – 1 (Simpson 22)
– Simpson fires Derwent into shock lead.
– Gill double inspires James comeback.
– Derwent ship four in a lethargic second half performance.
THE JAMES 1sts were dealt an early scare before showing the Derwent 2nds the level of performance they’ll be up against this season following promotion. Though the Black Swan eventually overwhelmed their opponents, Matthew Elvin will be pleased that his side remained competitive throughout the first half.
In fact, it was Derwent who drew first blood when Eloka Ntephe brought the ball under his spell on the edge of the area, before feeding Frank Simpson, who delivered an absolute rocket into the top right corner.
With Derwent tails wagging, the Division One champions pushed on, with Jack Low nearly finding a way through on goal before James ‘keeper Balzan smothered. Eventually, however, the league’s runners-up awoke from their slumber. Having made space on the right channel, Andrew Jopson delivered a teasing cross into an unmarked James Axford, who powered a header past Peter Bunce in the Derwent goal. Bunce’s afternoon was to become no easier, with a moment of confusion with his defence allowing Ralph Gill to slip through and flick the ball into the empty net. James finished the first half ahead, and were to offer no respite in the second.
Derwent, however, had a couple of chances to equalise when a rampaging run down the left channel from Rob Nicholson resulted in him cutting in, before curling straight at Balzan. The left flank was to prove a passage for Paul Reynolds to get forward minutes later, who slipped it through for Nicholson to deliver an inviting cross right across the face of the James goal.
Derwent had shown some exciting approach play, but putting the ball in the net is what makes a title challenger. Ralph Gill, already having one goal to his name from close range, decided to add another from 25 yards out when he guided a free kick into the top right corner with splendid ease.
The Derwent capitulation ensued. Having needlessly dawdled on the ball, Ryan Conner was dispossessed by James playmaker James Edwards, who set up Jopson for a simple finish. Moments later, Gill squandered a guilt-edged chance for his hat-trick, dragging his close range effort just wide of the far post.
No matter, for Jobling was to score James’ fifth instead, firing low into the far corner from the left-hand side of the area. The demolition job was completed by Dec Tuite, who squeezed the ball past Jules Delay on the goal line after the ball had ricocheted past Bunce. A miserable end to the second half for Derwent was a startling contrast to how they began the game.
For Mandeep Sangha and his men, the victory was a formality, and one he’ll hope will re-establish James’ hold on the league title.
James 1sts XI (4-4-1-1): Balzan; Sangha (c), Elliott, McCormick, Axford; Jopson, Gill, Jobling, Davies (Tuite); Edwards; Singleton (Carr).
Derwent 2nds XI (3-5-2): Bunce; Conner, Elvin (c), Reynolds; Mulligan, Stones, Ntephe, Simpson, Delay; Nicholson, Low.
James Man of the Match: Ralph Gill.
Derwent Man of the Match: Eloka Ntephe.