St. John’s vs Queens’

FOOTBALL: RUPERT MERCER sees cuppers champions Queens’ lose in the first round after a toothless display against John’s.

Ben Ryan Cuppers Cuppers champions cuppers final Dan Ford First round Kassim Ramji queens' football rupert mercer SJCAFC St. John's football

Last year’s Cuppers champions, Queens’, fell with a whimper at the first hurdle when they began their defence at John’s on Sunday.

The fixture actually had a bit of a back story, having been part of the first round draw last year. On that occasion, John’s had build up a seemingly unassailable lead, 4-1 in the ascendancy with 20 minutes left on the clock, only to slump horribly to a 5-4 defeat.

With both sides having made decent starts in the league – Queens’ are the division’s top scorers while John’s have the stingiest defence after leaders, Churchill – the match looked set to be a cracker and Queens’ flew out of the traps threatening the John’s back line with their first move of the match.

Unfortunately this was as potent an attack as they were able to string together all half, as John’s demonstrated why they have been conceding so few this season.

An unchanged back four of Mercer, Hilton, Goodwin and Tham has been the base from which they have built and the unit was on top form.

Happier times as the winner goes in last year

Queens’ didn’t seem to be playing an out-and-out striker and in scenes reminiscent of Man City when they played Carlos Tevez alone throughout the centre, the No. 9 dropped off the back four. This meant that the midfield was able to pass it around with panache, but the hard work of the excellent Kassim Ramji kept them at bay and Queens’ were unable to fashion any clear-cut openings.

John’s were starting to look dangerous at the other end. Set pieces were being excellently dealt with by Queens’ giant centre-back, Ben Ryan, but it was he who made the game’s crucial error – the ball looped up dangerously from an attempted John’s through ball and Ryan let it bounce before horribly fluffing his clearance into the path of Jack Roberts who slammed his volley into the top corner, taking his tally against the men in green to a remarkable four in three matches.

Dan Forde was working hard up top for John’s although he was naturally struggling in his aerial battle with Ryan. But the Forde Fiesta looked sharp with the ball at his feet and was the man who came closest to extending John’s lead, dancing past two men before slamming it from thirty yards and seeing the keeper beaten only for the ball to clip the bar on its way over.

Queens’ pushed for the equaliser in the second half and moved Ryan up top. However, they then continued to play the ball along the ground, hardly making the most of the man mountain leading the line. The upshot was that John’s saw out the game with a weak Ryan header as the only shot on target against them.

Queens’ will be disappointed with their effort at defending the title they fought so hard to win last season, while maybe this result will go some way to exorcising John’s demons from 2010.

For a full round-up of the Cuppers action, keep an eye on The Tab‘s Sport page.