JAMES SLIPPED up for the second week in a row, with their admittedly weakened team losing 4-1 to a rejuvenated Vanbrugh side who grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck from the kick-off and did not let go.
To add to James’ woes after going 2-0 down, Ralph Gill limped off injured and would not return, leaving a threadbare James squad to play on with ten players. Vanbrugh would go on to capitalise from James’ misfortune, comfortably adding another two goals before James scored a consolation goal just before the final whistle.
Vanbrugh must have noticed several members of James’ normal first team missing prior to kickoff, notably Andy Balzan who usually resides between the sticks for the Black Swan. They started quickly, pressing James every time they found themselves without possession of the ball. The effective Adam Lewis caused James problems all day leading the line for Vanbrugh, bulldozing through the James defence in increasingly unpredictable ways.
James seemed flustered at the tenacity of a Vanbrugh outfit that have not shown this side to their football this term prior to this match. However, James looked to remind Vanbrugh of their calibre as Jopson and Clarkson combined well with a neat one-two down the right flank, with Clarkson squeezing in a shot from a tight angle that tested Vanbrugh ‘keeper Donnell-Ford. Jopson then hit the post with a low shot from outside the box to further rattle Vanbrugh’s nerves.
Andriy Tabas, who had been moved up from his usual position in defence to central midfield for today’s game, retaliated by giving the James post its own examination with one of his signature long-range efforts. Vanbrugh kept the pressure on James who finally cracked after a corner was turned in by Kieran Paulas.
Adam Lewis’ strike partner Andy Miller then took advantage of some weak James defending, slipping into the box unchallenged and comfortably slotting the ball home to double Vanbrugh’s lead as the first half came to a close.
James would have been hoping that they would be able to turn it around in the second half but found themselves further in trouble as star man Ralph Gill managed to injure himself while making a bad challenge. With their team already missing a number of regular first-team players and having no substitutes, they were forced to play on with ten men, and a comeback was looking even less likely than ever.
The loss of Gill saw a lacklustre James midfield capitulate. In the first half they had been sitting a little too deep, with industrious fresher Andriy Tabas running the game for Vanbrugh, keeping Gill quiet and acting as the catalyst for stability and control in the midfield.
Vanbrugh took further advantage of this golden opportunity to put one over on the team sitting second in the table, skipper Joe Lund splitting the James defence with a piercing through ball to Andy Miller. James screamed for offside and seemed to give up as Miller added another to his personal tally for the afternoon. He would then go on to claim his hat trick, again from a chance that he should not have been allowed.
Adam Lewis had a chance to make sure that he wasn’t left off the scoresheet, attempting to clip a low cross over the keeper, but unfortunately the ball sailed over the crossbar.
Andrew Jopson then saved James some blushes with a terrific strike that blazed past Donnell-Ford, but it was all a little too late and when the final whistle blew, the final score read 4-1 and Vanbrugh had recorded only their second win of the season.
Despite James fielding a weakened side, this does not detract from a spectacular team performance from Vanbrugh who will look to push on, hopefully taking this form forward to Varsity and the College Cup. Andriy Tabas was instrumental in Vanbrugh’s victory, and might retain his new position in central midfield for the future.
Victorious captain Joe Lund was pleased with the way his team bounced back from some poor performances: ‘Obviously I’m really pleased, recently we haven’t just been losing but playing quite badly. Today was completely different. We were short of players so we had to go 4-4-2 and I was a bit worried that they might overrun us in midfield but we managed to not give them much time to play out from the back. They played with 10 men for some of the second half but we were already winning so I’m just really pleased and I thought everyone played very well’.
James captain Sangha bemoaned losing the core of his side: ‘We were awful today, we were missing 9 players, 6 of which play Uni 1s and 2s. That’s not an excuse as they still went 2-0 up, we didn’t deserve to get anything from the game at all. They deserved to win so credit to Vanbrugh’.
Vision MotM: Andriy Tabas
Vanbrugh 1sts: Donnell-Ford, Glanvill, Brennan, Paulas, Franklin, Polts, Tabas, Carruthers, Lund (c), Lewis, Miller.
James 1sts: Allen, Sangha (c), Elliott, McCormick, Axford, Clarkson, Gill, Jobbling, Lawson, Hosier, Jopson.