Exeter 2 – 1 St. Catz
After one of the most acrimonious build-ups to a JCR football match in recent memory, this year’s Cuppers final was always likely to be a battle, and on possibly the sunniest day of the year so far, Exeter and St. Catz played out a tense, cagey, and occasionally bad-tempered game. In the end, a couple of moments of class from the Exeter boys proved decisive, and the Turl Street side came from behind to complete a 2-1 win in the dying moments.
Catz started far the better, looking assured in possession and largely ensuring that Exeter’s danger men were kept away from the penalty area. As the half wore on Exeter threatened occasionally from set-pieces and saw a gilt-edged chance go begging when a long shot clipped the post only for the attacker to miss the rebound. However, Catz’ speed on the break was ominous, and Exeter keeper Jack O’Mahoney was integral in keeping the scores level.
The Exeter ‘keeper’s run of clean sheets in this year’s competition was not to last though, as a driving run down the right-hand side saw Catz beat the Exeter offside-trap and take the lead, with striker Lee Sandquist finishing stylishly at the near post. Coming close to the end of the first half, the goal threatened to knock the stuffing out of the Exeter side, but a vociferous crowd continued to keep spirits up.
The break saw a penguin run around the pitch’s running track, but more importantly perhaps, Exeter brought on Blues captain Jack Fletcher in midfield in an attempt to take more control of the ball. Upon the resumption, both sides looked dangerous, but Catz were unable to add to their lead and similarly, Exeter looked unable to really trouble Joe Kidd in the Catz goal.
A series of set-pieces changed all that though, with a few off-target headers making the goalkeeper think, and then, with around fifteen minutes of normal time to go, Mike Essman hammered a stunning 25 yard free-kick into the corner of the net, and all was to play for.
For all the world, the game looked set to go to extra-time, but Exeter substitute George Bustin popped up in the right place and at the right time to fire home a winner with what was practically the last kick of the game. One half of the Iffley Road stand went wild, the other looked despondent.
This was a last hurrah for much of the Exeter team that has been there and thereabouts in JCR football over recent years, with five or six players finishing their JCR careers in style, although some impressive performances from freshers Bustin, Will David, and Luke Maxfield bode well. On the other side of the fence though, Catz may have lost, but during the match and their cup-run as a whole, Ed Steele’s boys from Manor Road have showed enough to suggest that they should be considered amongst the JCR football heavyweights in the coming years.