College football round up, 7th and 8th weeks

PREMIER DIVISION
Teddy Hall 3 Oriel 0
Last week, SEH regained some form by beating Oriel 3-0. It was a good attacking display, in which many chances were created. Goals scored by Talbot Smith, Theodore, and Hoffmann secured this victory. Oriel rarely threatened until the last 10 minutes, in which they had a couple of good chances. Talbot-Smith and Mike Sopp both had excellent games. John Waldron

DIVISION ONE Exeter 0 Balliol 3Balliol beat Exeter 3-0 on Monday. Goalscorers were George Wright, Jamie Hill and James Gerlis. Jamie Hill
DIVISION TWO Fri 22nd Feb – Pembroke 4-3 St Peter’s Pembroke started the game well and went into a 4-1 lead, with Ali Craggs running the game from central midfield. However, Peter’s soon got back into it. Sherlock scored in the first half, with the two centrebacks Al Smith and Charlie McNicholas both scoring late headers. Charlie McNicholas

Fri 29th Feb – St Peter’s 0-0 Queens For all St Peter’s pressure they could not find the goal. Charlie McNicholas, Luke Sherlock and Matt Judge all came close, but they could not find the breakthrough. Charlie McNicholas

Mon 3rd March – Trinity 1-5 St Peter’s St Peter’s got their first win of the season with a fantastic display of attacking football in a game they dominated. Charlie McNicholas got two – the first a superb curling shot – and Toby Hodgson emphatically smashed in to put Peter’s into a 3-0 half-time lead. Forward Rob Pepper then added two more before Trinity’s consolation. It could have been double figures. Charlie McNicholas

Merton-Mansfield 1, University 2

Merton-Mansfield’s promotion party was well and truly spoiled last Wednesday, as they stumbled at home to a determined and passionate Univ side. The hosts only needed a solitary point to wrap up the Division Two title, but were denied it as they threw away an early lead and suffered only their second home defeat of the season. Ten days ago, Merton had travelled to Univ’s fortress-like Abingdon Road ground and plundered all three points, so today the away side were out for revenge. They were also desperate for a result in order to reinvigorate a promotion challenge which had stuttered slightly in recent weeks. This showed in the opening minutes, as the Univ defence set its stall out with a number of crunching challenges. Merton started brightly nonetheless, and looked particularly dangerous from set pieces. The first talking point came after fifteen minutes. A swift passing move created a real opportunity for the home side, but Univ skipper Jack Browning flew in and prevented an almost certain goal. The Merton players were vocal in their claims for a penalty, but replays confirm that he won enough of the ball to justify the referee’s decision to play on. Merton-Mansfield were not to be denied for long though. Univ struggled to deal with a flurry of corners, and eventually an excellent delivery from the left was firmly headed by Tom Goodman into the bottom corner. The home support celebrated wildly, as confirmation of the title moved to within touching distance.

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However, Univ’s interest in the promotion race is far from over, and their reaction to falling behind was superb. Earlier in the season, heads may have gone down after conceding in a game of such importance, but it was a different story today. Their front two of James Gingell and Will Stuart looked dangerous throughout, and it was the former who fired in a spectacular equaliser just before the break. From an innocuous looking position with back to goal, he swivelled and hammered a ferocious half volley across Reuben Holt in the Merton goal and into the bottom corner. It was no more than the away side deserved. The vocal home crowd had been silenced and Univ went into the break full of confidence. The second half started in the same vein, as Univ controlled possession and looked threatening. Just a few minutes after the restart, a neat passing move culminated in Will Stuart being played through on goal. As he shaped to shoot, he was inexplicably hauled down by a home defender. The referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot, and suddenly the game was in danger of being turned on its head. A hushed silence descended across the ground, but James Gingell was the calmest man on the pitch as he confidently slotted the ball past Holt to give the away side a priceless lead. Merton poured forward in search of a title-winning equaliser, but it was Univ who looked most likely to add to their lead. A long range Gingell free kick was tipped over, while Alex Watson rounded the keeper only to see his goal-bound effort cleared off the line. As they became increasingly agitated, Merton began to lose their discipline, and one home midfielder was booked for a particularly wild challenge.

Merton- Mansfield are not top of the table for nothing though, and as the game drew to a close, they began to show their class. An excellent free kick was superbly tipped wide by visiting keeper Ed Hardy, who suffered a nasty collision with the post for his troubles. Indeed, Hardy made a number of excellent saves as the hosts threw everything they had at the Univ back four. Nevertheless, the away defence stood firm. They rode their luck at times however; and Jack Browning was lucky only to be booked after a mistimed challenge prevented a clear Merton opportunity. With just minutes left on the clock, prolific Scot Robbie Coleman thought he had salvaged a Merton leveller. He slotted calmly past Hardy, but his joy was cut short by the linesman’s flag, as a home striker was adjudged to have been in an offside position when the ball was played. Seconds later, the final whistle was blown, and Univ celebrated a sensational away victory. Merton, on the other hand, were left to rue a missed opportunity. Not only had they thrown away an early lead, but they would have to wait another week to confirm their status as league champions.

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Indeed, subsequent results have meant that going into the very last week of the season, we are still no closer to knowing the identity of this year’s Division Two champions. Merton- Mansfield’s last game of the season, a 3-2 defeat away to Corpus- Linacre, has left them top of the table on 34 points. Corpus on the other hand blew their title chance by losing 1-0 at home to Pembroke on Tuesday. However, they will confirm a promotion spot if they, as expected, see off OXILP at home on Friday. This has created an extraordinary situation in terms of the final promotion spot. Pembroke host Univ on Friday, knowing that if they avoid defeat, they too will be playing in Division One next season. Univ know that only a win will keep their dreams alive. Furthermore, a win for either team will see them leapfrog the entire pack and be promoted as champions, while a draw will hand the title to long-term table-toppers Merton-Mansfield. This Friday looks likely to be one of the most exciting final days in Division Two history.

by Matt Miskimmin