Football: SEH v Worcester

Worcester finally regained the Cuppers trophy for the first time since 1950 as an Alex Toogood goal three minutes from the end of extra time ended Teddy Hall’s heroic resistance.

The Worcester juggernaut came into the match feeling justifiably confident of completing the league and cup double. But the favourites tag seemed to weigh heavily upon them, while Teddy Hall rose to the occasion, which led to an intriguing, if not entirely enthralling, contest.

 The Teddy Hall back four would have been expecting a busy afternoon from the Blues strikeforce of Niko de Walden and Alex Toogood, and were surely delighted to discover that de Walden had failed a late fitness test, leaving Toogood as the main threat. John Waldron led his back four superbly, with Caspar Le Fanu, in particular, excelling against the leading scorer in University football. When the defence was eventually breached, Hall were lucky to have Nicola Ielpo, declared fit despite strained ligaments in his right knee, between the sticks. That he was named man-of-the-match was not only indicative of his fine performance, but also of the fact that Worcester did the majority of the pressing.

However, the longer the match went on the more Teddy Hall came into the match, and the traditional ‘big man, little man’ combo of Wilfred Frost and Charlie Talbot-Smith combined admirably despite often finding themselves isolated from the rest of the team. Their two best chances within the ninety minutes fell to the duo either side of half time, but Blues keeper David Robinson produced two fine saves of his own.

 As the match headed into extra time, the tension appeared to be affecting Worcester, and Talbot Smith had a glorious chance to give Teddy Hall the lead after a Frost flick-on from a long throw: his instinctive header from point-blank range flew narrowly wide. With Ielpo still proving equal to anything Worcester could create, Talbot-Smith brought down a long-ball and struck a speculative effort from 30 yards. It seemed to catch Robinson  off-guard, taking an awkward bounce over the keeper’s dive, before creeping agonisingly wide of the left-hand post, to the relief of Worcester.

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 This moment proved pivotal in the match as the resulting goal kick was flicked on and knocked over the top for Toogood to chase. The Blues striker did not disappoint, hitting the ball  with the outside of his foot across the keeper. It took a bounce, clipped the inside of the post and nestled in the back of the net. The ensuing celebrations reflected relief as much as elation as Toogood led his team past both sets of fans in the stand. The contrasting emotions were evident. With just three minutes to go the match was as good as won.

 As the final whistle blew, the Worcester celebrations could begin, and after a wait of fifty-eight years, captain Danny Plaxton finally took the cup back into Worcester’s possession.