Last Friday had the potential to be one of the most exciting days in the Oxford sporting calendar so far, and it certainly didn’t disappoint. Those who took the time out of their busy schedules to watch some of Oxford’s finest athletes ply their trade were treated to four cracking XChanging Cuppers ties, with the prospect of two mouth-watering semi-finals to follow at University Parks on Friday the 15th.
The early kick off saw First Division leaders New travel to Second Division outfit Pembroke, and they needed a late brace from Sam Donald to see them safely through to the next round with a 2-1 win. New’s attacking midfielder Edd Hermes outlined what it means to be that one step closer to the final: ‘Everyone dreams of Iffley. Even the most unlikely hipster, clambering into bed after a long night of looking miserable at BabyLove, having not played a single minute of sport during his 3 years at Oxford, dreams of Iffley. Every Blues badminton player, every member of Oxford Anime Society, every extra in every low budget, University dramatic production, dreams of Iffley.’ He added, ‘We are no different. The difference lies in the fact that we, as a group of young men have the chance to make this dream a reality. Heavens gates are in sight, we’re being beckoned in. Just one last giant, fairly attractive, lake possessing behemoth stands in the way.’
That ‘behemoth’ comes in the form of Worcester, who dispatched lower league opposition in the form of Trinity after extra time. Two goals from player of the round Julian Austin were enough to see the Premier Division side through, but for much of the game it looked like a shock may have been on the cards. Worcester will be hoping that their Cuppers run translates into league form, as they push for the title in Oxford’s top division, while Trinity will feel that their gutsy performances shows they have the ability to push on and secure promotion to Division 1. The Worcester College twitter account has proclaimed the semi-final a ‘clash of the titans’, and it seems hard to disagree.
The other of Friday’s semi-finals will see Wadham take on Turl Street outfit Lincoln, who came through an extremely tight affair with Teddy Hall to emerge victorious after the proverbial lottery of the penalty shootout. Goals from Lincoln’s Nathan Riddell and Teddy Hall’s Edward Mole had left the two sides, only 6 places apart in the league ladder, inseparable after 120 minutes, with the strength of both defences the prominent feature of the game. Both teams had chances to win the game, and Lincoln’s captain Alex West was delighted to make it through eventually: “We’re really looking forward to the semi final, and whilst we have already beaten Wadham this year in the Premier League, we can’t let this go to our heads. It will undoubtedly be a big test, but one I feel we as a team have the quality to overcome. If we play the way I know we can then we will hopefully be back at Iffley road after too long of an absence.”
Wadham overcame second division Christ Church to book their place at University Parks on Friday, with a margin of victory that was probably no surprise to either side. Christ Church were hoping that the magic of the cup would see them pull of a Luton-like cup upset against a side who have had a mixed season in the top flight, but they had no answer to Wadham’s attacking prowess and two goals apiece for Chris Wright and Jez Stothart saw the away side on their way to a 4-2 victory, meaning that the St Aldate’s side will now need to focus on their Division 2 campaign.
As has been the case all season, we must certainly expect the unexpected when it comes to Friday’s ties. For a betting man, the Cuppers semi-finals seem a sure fire way to lose a lot of money, but perhaps we should look to New College’s match-week exploits as a means to predict the results. They’re spending the week attempting to create the Worcester team on FIFA, then playing them with their own created team, and looking for areas to exploit. The job is a meticulous one and much work is clearly being neglected in the process, but you can’t help but feel this might just give them the mental edge in their upcoming contest. For them it’s a worthwhile experience, and we can be sure that across Oxford, the prospect of a Cuppers Final is washing away any 5th week blues that our sport starts might be experiencing.
If your appetite needed to be whet any further, the last resounding words from New College’s Press Officer should do the trick: ‘We love footie. We love cuppers. We’re ready.’