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Hassan’s final: St Catz defeat New College 7-0

St Catherine’s College soundly thrashed New College in the Hassan’s cup final on Saturday 1st week. The match, which was played at the Oxford City ground in Marston, was a close contest until halftime, after which Catz scored six goals to take the cup home with a canter. 

I trudged up to Marston from my cosy OX1 bubble, unsure of where exactly to find the match I was meant to be reporting on for the day. Even after reaching the ground, for a moment I was transfixed by what looked like an under-12s match that had gone to penalties. They were playing in the main pitch but with kiddie goals, and their huddles and celebrations as the penalties went down were strongly reminiscent of the recent City vs Madrid match. Strangely riveting as it was, I set off to find the place where the real action was about to go down. If the under-12s were so captivating, what could Oxford have in store?

The Hassan’s final: St Catz vs New, the clash of two titans. College football has few greater encounters than this. The destination for the day turned out to be a ground in the back, where I caught the two teams warming up. It had just rained and the benches were sopping wet, so I, along with all the other spectators, elected to stand for the entirety of the match. The sky was very overcast and temperatures were near 8 degrees. Really, it was all rather very scenic. It felt much like it was out of the rhetorical question: the teams were good, but could they do it on a cold rainy afternoon in Marston?

(A note to the uninformed reader: Hassan’s is a knockout cup held between teams that were knocked out in the first round of Cuppers. It’s so called for being sponsored by Hassan’s, as the tale goes.)

Catz took kickoff and immediately took possession too. The first half in general was characterised by rather steady build-up play by Catz, who were especially strong through the wings, making many runs and constantly pressing the New back line. The New defence did a good job warding off the attempts made by Catz early on, and most of the first half was very tightly contested by both teams, with New being right in the game and making a few runs on the break. Slowly, though, the Catz team began to push through. A few shots were made, and then a shot on target. Finally, right before halftime, Catz made a play through the centre and scored their first goal in the 39th minute. 

After that the floodgates opened. No more goals were scored until halftime but the Catz presses seemed ever more dangerous. And once the second half resumed, it was all over for New. Catz scored again within five minutes of resumption, a lovely long strike from captain Jake Wong from over 40 yards out, beating all the defenders and the keeper in the air. The sustained impact of Catz’s presses in the first half, and then the wondrous volley from the skipper, broke the dam of New’s defence that had been holding Catz back in the first half. 

Within a 14-minute passage of play, from the 58th to the 72nd minute, Catz scored thrice in rapid succession, each one coming from the result of aggressive build-up play and some fine finishing from the Catz strikers. And then, for good measure, they scored twice again after that, in the 81st and 83rd minutes. By this point the New defenders looked well and truly defeated and exhausted. The second half, which Catz had so completely dominated, saw them saunter to victory assuredly. 

The point of difference between the two sides was their respective midfields. In truth, in the first half, Catz only had a slight advantage in possession, and New was able to wrest control reasonably often. But where the Catz midfielders were able to make use of possession, making plays and being dynamic both defensively and offensively, the New midfield were rather ordinary and none of their presses resulted in genuine pressure on the Catz defence. The New midfield was ineffective in assisting their own defence against Catz’s high line, resulting in the New defence having to absorb all the pressure. And once the defence buckled, it was a goalfest. 

Catz supporters were in greater evidence compared to their New counterparts. One Catz supporter, who did not wish to be named, said: ‘We’ve got a strong squad… we came second to Keble in the league and lost to Balliol in Cuppers, probably were better than them though’. They added that they were ‘happy with [this season]’. Spirits were high in the Catz camp all throughout. Captain Jake Wong, speaking to Cherwell after the victory, said: ‘We’re absolutely buzzing, happy to have any bit of silverware.’ When asked about his long goal in the 49th minute, he said, ‘Don’t score too many [as a defender], so to get that in the big game felt really good’. He added that he was excited for the celebrations later, stating: ‘I believe we’re going to get free drinks for our medals in the JCR!’ All in all, Catz walked away with a comfortable and well-celebrated victory.

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