The second half of the college football season figures to be one of the most exciting in recent memory: that is, if Hilary’s frozen fields relent in their effort to sabotage Oxford sport.
This is the term of championship elation and relegation despair, Cuppers triumphs and painful penalty shoot-out exits: whether trophies or torment, something is at stake for all teams at this time of year.
The JCR Premier Division has been exciting and competitive, where the overall quality of play is consistently high. Christ Church, one of the pre-season favourites, stormed out of the gate and maintained that momentum into the New Year: they now sit three points clear, unbeaten and hugely confident. Alec Ward, the team’s creative heartbeat, directs a high-powered attack that threatens the goal on every possession, and the side’s resilient defensive line are as tough to beat as any in the league.
St Catz are an impressive force, though, and once again they seem to be hitting their stride at the right time: their tactical intelligence is obvious, and supporting striker Alan MacNaughton is able to find space and distribute the ball freely. The destination of the title might well be decided by which of these top two can keep their form over the next few games.
Teddy Hall, Wadham and Magdalen are still in the race, too, especially in a division where many teams are clustered on a similar number of points; a week of surprising results can entirely alter the table’s complexion. Wadham began the season as
pace-setters, but have faded fast against the league’s better sides. At the other end, LMH, Brasenose and New are fighting for survival, while Merton/Mansfield currently occupy the fourth relegation spot – next year’s divisional realignment means that an extra team must drop.
The First Division has been dominated by fallen giants Worcester, who are set to bounce back to the Prem immediately. St John’s and St Hugh’s also look strong in their campaigns for promotion. Cuppers is again fascinating: a winner at this stage is impossible to predict. In the leagues and the cup, then, the next 8 weeks will decide everything, providing plenty of drama and entertainment along the way.