Downing scrape past the heavy-drinking Homerton on penalties to advance to the final.
Homerton 1 – 1 Downing (5 – 6 pen). Grange Road.
After multiple postponements – and numerous altercations outside City Kebab – today’s much anticipated cuppers semi finally came to a thrilling conclusion.
Two of the most physical sides in Cambridge opened tetchily: the most interesting moments of the first ten minutes were on the sidelines, where large contingents from both colleges chanted boisterously.
The deadlock was broken by Downing at the 14 minute mark. A Patrick Sheriff corner floated into the box, and after some lapse marking, was bundled in by the back post.
Homerton were rocked, and responded in typically rough fashion. A number of huge hits ensued, before a Downing challenge left John Gregson with a deep gash on his head.
The fight back began after a Richard Eggleston free kick rattled the post with the swerve and verve of a young Roberto Carlos.
Minutes later, he was again bearing down on goal, beating two and fizzing a cross low across the six-yard box.
Half-time only brought more aggression and menace from Homerton, and eventually, a goal. Eggleston finally got the better of his man, releasing Scott Bamber who coolly finished on 50 minutes.
The Homerton contingent, now thoroughly inebriated, went ballistic, steaming down the touchline and nearly breaking the slender legs of crowd favourite super-sub Arun ‘Loris’ Wilson.
Downing, marshalled by the ever-present Keith Shagyard in the hole, unleashed a volley of long balls and deft wing play.
Apart from a great chance from the beanpole-esque Steve Wildman, unfairly compared to Peter Crouch by the Downing faithful, the league champions had the better of the late opportunities.
In extra time, Downing’s superior fitness began to show. But neither side looked likely to score, and the tie headed to penalties.
The opening of the shootout was marred by a confrontation between Homerton fans and a Downing photographer, and member of academic staff. He labelled them “appalling” for alleged damage to an advertising hoarding.
Thankfully, Elms BMW decided to waive the cost of a 7p plastic tag, and the penalties began.
After their opening two attempts failed, Downing looked solid, and eventually took the shootout 6 -5, despite some valid goalkeeping from Dave Rose.
“Neither side deserved to lose”, said Homerton left-back Liam ‘Jedward’ Stevens after the match.
“In the end, it was their pace and fitness that did for us.”
Downing now progress to the final, where they will play Trinity for the cuppers crown.