Worcester have double in sight

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By Jeremy KellySo far this season the Oxford college premiership has produced 137 goals in 35 games. Contrast this with the 241 goals in 209 Barclays premiership games and the open, attacking nature of our college game stands out. It may be true that there is less need for caution, there are no million pound contracts on the table, there are no Sam Allardyces to formulate tactics and that blunder in the big game will only lead to light hearted abuse in the pub, not death threats.High flying, high scoring Worcester will take some beating after opening an imposing 6 point lead before Christmas, a convincing campaign that included a 5-1 drubbing of 2nd place St Anne’s. The reigning champions have based much of their success on a prolific attack that has netted 8 more times than any other team in the league. No less than 7 of their players have scored a brace or more this season, a sure indication of a team with strength in depth and a variety of tactical attacking options to outwit opponents. Combine this with a back 4 that Blues coach Martin Keown would surely be proud of, the 7 goals scraped past them being a league low, and it would appear that Worcester are just too good. What does remain to be seen however is if they can banish their Cuppers nightmare, 3 lost semi-finals and a lost quarter-final in 4 years, and achieve the double that would confirm their dominance of college football at present. Newly promoted St Anne’s have impressed and are the only team to have beaten Worcester this season, no mean feat against a side that have lost just 3 of their last 38 league encounters. No doubt they will regret a sluggish start that saw 2 losses in the opening 3 games and betrayed teething problems in the higher division. The fitness of striker Jacob Lloyd will be crucial to continued success. His 8 goals in 7 starts has identified him as one of the leagues top players and puts him in contention for the golden boot. With games against the bottom 3 in their next 4 matches St Anne’s have a real chance to scare Worcester but with both matches between the two having already taken place they are relying on a couple of shock results. Any slip ups of their own will surely prove fatal to their chances. Teddy Hall have finally woken from their early season lethargy to produce some recent fine results, although they will need to improve in they are to dethrone Worcester and not doze off again as they nearly did in their scrappy win over Lincoln at the end of November or their laboured cuppers victory on penalties over 2nd division Univ. If they can replicate the strength of their 5-0 win over Jesus against Worcester on Wednesday, easily the pick of this weeks games, we are in for a treat. Teddy Hall also look good to challenge for the Cuppers trophy that they relinquished last year and will be hoping for a favourable draw in the third round. With a game in hand over most of the others Wadham are in a great position to challenge for 2nd even if the top spot would appear too distant. Like St Anne’s they are a newly promoted side in the top half of the table, something that implies a pleasing fluidity to the college league structure and should give encouragement to the 1st division sides contesting the promotion spots. Wadham’s high position is a testament to their consistency. Anomalously for such an exciting league, games involving Wadham haven’t provided a surfeit of goals, a tribute to an all chemistry back 4 who have bonded well together but perhaps a indication that they lack that final touch upfront. We shall have learnt much more about Wadham in a fortnight’s time as they encounter Worcester and St Anne’s in their next 2.Unbeaten in 6 Oriel have the potential to big the big climbers in 2008. Although these results have come against struggling sides and Cuppers teams from lower divisions their 4-1 opening day win over Teddy Hall shows their explosive potential if everyone is firing. A major concern however will be their recent record of throwing away leads and will still be smarting at Brasenose’s last minute equaliser at the end of Michaelmas. New find themselves just 2 points away from the relegation zone but comfortable wins over each of the bottom 2 should reassure them and wins in their upcoming fixtures against Lincoln and Brasenose would surely ensure their re-appearance to the top flight come October. Knocked out of Cuppers by a rampant Worcester there is a danger that the side could end up the season simply treading water. Hopefully the inspirational presence of free scoring captain Robin Cantwell and his personal quest for the golden boot (he is joint top with Lloyd on 8) should keep them pressing on. Despite being unbeaten through October Brasenose find themselves in a inglorious relegation scrap. Between them and Jesus, with whom they are level on points, they have been the more impressive, winning the encounter between the two 4-2 and were only narrowly edged out in recent games against Wadham and Teddy Hall. With some tough fixtures in the next few weeks their game against Jesus late on the season is already shaping up to be a tense relegation decider. Having picked up just 1 point and perhaps more ominously scored just 1 goal in their last 5 games Jesus will desperately be looking for a way to resurrect their season. A porous defence that conceded 11 goals in 3 days towards the end of last term will also take some bolstering. A well earned draw against Wadham in their last game does however indicate they deserve to be playing at this level but they will need to replicate that sort of performance in the second half of the season that sees them with a tough draw. 5 of their 8 games are away, and they still have Worcester to play twice. The Derby County of the Oxford premiership, Lincoln are left playing for pride. Their lowly league position is somewhat surprising given they have twice scored three goals in league matches this season (they lost both) and they helped produce the most extraordinary match of the season, a 5-4 Cuppers win against a Christ Church side who are going strong in the first division. However they have not produced the balance that other sides have and will probably have to go back to the drawing board in division 1 next season.

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