St John’s fairy tale season ended on a high at Iffley in 8th week, as they came out on top against Premiership champions Teddy Hall, in a tight and absorbing contest finally decided by a last minute strike from Blues’ squad member Adam Zagajewski.
In front of a sizeable crowd, Teddy Hall began the match as clear favourites against their lower league opponents, having gone undefeated since they lost to St Anne’s on the first day of the season. Boasting a defence which included three former or current Centaurs players, including Nicola Ielpo in goal, they also had the Premierships main goal threat in the form of the giant Charlie Southern. Their squad was further strengthened by the return of Talbot-Smith, who had flown back early from his placement in Russia for the tie. For the first half at least, the match looked to follow its predicted course. Teddy Hall were the more physical of the teams in the opening stages and St John’s looked very much like the underdogs which they had been billed as.
But despite having the majority of the territory and possession, Hall never really threatened to score. In fact, the two best chances of the first half fell to John’s, Evans-Young forcing a smart save out of Ielpo, and Zagajewski hitting a well struck volley on to see it come back off the inside of the post and roll agonisingly across the goal line before being cleared.
St John’s came out the stronger after the break and began to play their own game, Duff and Easthamkeeping the dangerous Southern in check, while the tireless Affron was a constant thorn in the side of his markers, winning everything in the air up front.
The deadlock was finally broken 15 minutes from time. Paul Forbes was released down the right wing and had the composure to pull the ball back across goal, allowing loitering right-back Newland to finish from six yards out.
With their supporters momentarily silenced, Teddy Hall were forced to throw numbers forward, going to three at the back and, for the first time, began to exert concerted pressure on the John’s goal. Despite the constant threat, as the clock continued to wind down it looked as though Hall would miss out for the second year in a row. However, with five minutes left to play, John’s conceded the ball in a dangerous position, allowing Southern to find space on the edge of the box and rifle a shot past the stranded Berend.
With the crowds taunts still ringing in their ears, John’s almost conceded again from the restart, a rare mistake at the back leaving Southern in clear, but this time Berend was up to the challenge.
Just as extra-time seemed inevitable, the game was settled for good by Zagajewski. A mix-up between Ielpo and Gilbert allowed the diminutive striker to pounce on the loose ball and somehow bend the ball into the top corner from the by-line, sparking wild celebrations and an impromptu pitch invasion when the final whistle blew.
Questions remain as to whether the little Yorkshireman was in fact attempting to cross the ball, but he was unequivocal in his response when asked, as he stated ‘you’ve just got to back yourself from there’.