Fifth Week is often associated with doom and gloom, but this week footballers across Oxford will be banishing any negativity with dreams of glory at Iffley Road and a place in the history books. Yes, it’s the next round of JCR Football Cuppers.
The tournament, which is more than 130 years old, has true prestige, an elegant trophy and offers the finalists the chance to play at a renowned venue in front of hundreds of adoring fans — a far cry from the usual crowd of the groundsman and a couple of substitutes.
With the second round being contested this week, a place in the quarter-finals is up for grabs. However none of reigning champions Exeter, last year’s runners up St Catz, or Worcester — Cuppers winners for three consecutive years between 2011 and 2013 — will be among the final eight: the magic of the cup has struck again.
While Exeter were famously humiliated by perennial basement side Univ in the first round in 3rd Week, current Premier Division leaders Worcester also unexpectedly suffered a “cupset” in the second round on Tuesday against fellow top-tier side New — the first time that Worcester have failed to reach at least the semi-final stage since 2009. Goals from Rifkin-Zybutz, Hayes and Feeney gave New a sensational 3-2 victory, avenging their defeat in the 2011 Cuppers final. Tim Wade’s side will now have their eyes firmly set on a return to Iffley Road.
Elsewehere, Balliol progressed to the quarter-finals with a 2-0 victory over St Anne’s in an all-Division 1 affair. Anne’s were handicapped early on in the match, having astonishingly turned up with only nine players, but the Broad Street side failed to take full advantage against a resilient defence and went into the interval with just a 1-0 lead.
With a full team in the second half, the Mint Green Army of Anne’s rallied strongly but were unable to find a way past dominant Blues keeper Jamie Farmer. Instead an unfortunate late own goal from fall-back Ben Hartridge wrapped up the win for Balliol.
Yet again a big name fell by the wayside as last year’s beaten finalists St Catz lost 3-2 to Keble. This upset surpised many, given that St Catz beat their opponents 2-1 in the league in 3rd Week, whilst Keble have also struggled with top-tier football so far this term, losing all three of their league matches. Instead though, this victory sees a continuation of the good cup form they showed in their 6-1 first- round victory against St Hilda’s.
Most recently, Pembroke, who narrowly missed out on promotion last season, replicated their 4-0 demolition of Brasenose by dismissing St Hugh’s by the same scoreline. LMH, meanwhile, saw off the challenge posed by Queen’s, winning 2-0 with goals from James Tunningley and Thomas Brown.
Expect plenty more twists and turns: Cuppers is back.