St. Anne's 4 – 1 Oriel St Anne’s comfortably beat Oriel today to overtake Teddy Hall and go second in the JCR Premiership. With the season drawing to its close, a ding-dong battle is developing between these two in pursuit of Worcester, who lead Anne’s by only two points, albeit with a game in hand. Oriel, only just behind Anne’s before today’s match, now languish in mid-table, licking their wounds alongside Wadham as the top three fight it out in a potentially thrilling season finale. On a perfect afternoon for football, both teams set out their stall to attack, Anne’s playing an intricate passing game, and Oriel ready to break with speed. Oriel’s striker Kris Burnage had the first chance of the match, latching onto a long ball to volley wide from outside the box. Anne’s hit back with a flowing move down the left, full-back Andy Royle exchanging passes with winger Mc- Donald before firing his shot past the far post. Soon after this, Anne’s took the lead through a moment of pure class from striker Jacob Lloyd, deftly cushioning down a long ball with his head before hitting a low, controlled volley from outside the box across the Oriel keeper and into the far corner. It didn’t take long for Anne’s to add a second, this time as a result of shambolic defending. A routine long ball was poorly dealt with, allowing Anne’s midfielder Joe Galbraith to direct the ball towards Mc- Donald six yards out, who shinned his shot unerringly into the bottom corner. Oriel came close to a quick response, heading narrowly wide from a corner, only to concede a third to another moment of quality from Anne’s – McDonald’s crisply chipped through-ball put Ed Border away, who slid the ball home with trademark composure, cool as an oversized cucumber. Anne’s passing game was looking as good as it had all season, with a stylish commitment to keeping it on the ground and letting the ball do the work that saw several players revelling in the opportunity to strut their stuff. Oriel still looked dangerous, and could probably count themselves unlucky to be three down at this point. Central midfielder and Blue, Cameron Knight, twice went close from outside the box, and Qais Hammad sent a dangerous-looking free kick narrowly over the bar. Knight’s return to the Oriel side was spoilt by the constant harrying of the two Anne’s centre mids, Stu Clark and Steve Clarke, who dominated the physical battle to control the game. Harry Hoare and Burnage looked sharp up front for Oriel, with Burnage’s impressive pace carving out a half-chance, only to be stopped by a brave last-ditch block from Anne’s captain Ryan Fox, and then Hoare bringing a good low save from Anne’s keeper Mike Butler. On the stroke of half-time, Butler was called into action again to dive at the feet of Hammad – one of several occasions where the Anne’s keeper’s speed off his line proved a crucial last line of defence. At half-time the score remained 3-0 to St Anne’s. The second half started in similar fashion to the end of the first, with Anne’s perhaps over-complicating their passing but producing flashes of real skill, Oriel favouring a direct approach as they chased the game. Both sides went close from corners, Anne’s defender Chris Hollindale twice heading wide under pressure, either side of a powerful effort from Oriel’s Ettenfield, whose header was also off-target after a superb ball from Hammad. At this point both sides made substitutions. Perhaps coincidentally, perhaps not, Oriel immediately grabbed a goal back, a nice passing move putting Knight in to slide home and give the visitors a lifeline. With twenty minutes to go, Oriel began to pile on the pressure, throwing caution to the winds with a 4-3-3 formation as Anne’s switched to 4-5-1. Oriel forced several corners but were unable to capitalise on any of them as Anne’s held firm, determined not to let their lead slip. Both sides had chances, Oriel forcing a series of desperate blocks on the edge of the Anne’s box and then Hollindale having a header cleared off the line from yet another corner. At last, with five minutes left, Anne’s put the game beyond doubt, Kynaston, Clarke and Border combining to feed McDonald on the edge of the box, who nonchalantly fired the ball into the far corner to seal the victory. The final whistle wasn’t long coming, leaving both teams to reflect on a somewhat flattering score line for St Anne’s. With only a handful of games to go, Anne’s find themselves very much still in the hunt for the title, particularly with Worcester still to play their re-arranged match with Teddy Hall. It seems likely that this season will go right down to the wire: Wednesday 5 March, when Anne’s host Teddy Hall in their final game, is a date that should be circled in everyone’s calendar.by George Kynaston