By Matt Roberts
It was a successful launch for Team Mary’s on Sunday evening at Maiden Castle as two of the college’s football teams recorded back-to-back wins. First, Mary’s C team saw off Hatfield Ds 4-1 before Mary’s As got their Premiership campaign off to the perfect start with victory over last year’s league winners Hild Bede A.
Team Mary’s is the brainchild of St Mary’s College JCR President Becca Hunt and Jack Tellyn, sport captain at the college, had been busy promoting the initiative in the build up to Sunday’s official launch. He told Palatinate that “the idea behind Team Mary’s is to increase the solidarity of the club. We are now one big team and it will help our great performances and results be recognised throughout college.”
Nobody at Mary’s could have wished for a better unveiling. Off the pitch, ‘Marians’ turned out in numbers to show their support and provide vocal backing. But the real positive came on the pitch as the players performed superbly on the rubber crumb, scoring freely and defending resolutely.
The first game of the night, a Division 4 clash between Mary’s C and Hatfield D, was an end-to-end encounter from the first minute as both sides showed attacking intent. After twenty minutes, St Mary’s went in front through Matthew Freeman whose instinctive left foot half-volley was deflected in.
Despite the scoreline, Lee Murray in the Mary’s goal was the busier of the two keepers. Hatfield had a goal ruled out for offside before striking the post with a low effort from range.
But they would rue those missed chances as, moments later, Mary’s doubled their lead through the impressive Dan Saveski.
With half time approaching Hatfield got back into the game, dispatching a penalty into the top corner after Mary’s captain Eddy Herman was judged to have bundled over the opposition forward.
The match was finely poised in the second half as a pattern of play developed; Mary’s controlled possession and built pressure but Hatfield provided a significant threat on the break. Lee Murray made a superb stop with his legs to keep the score at 2-1 and Hatfield missed a golden opportunity to draw level, firing over the bar from five yards out.
That miss seemed to deflate Hatfield and Mary’s capitalised through Joe Proffitt. After coming on as a half time substitute, Proffitt’s pace and movement caused trouble and he clinically scored two in the closing stages to seal victory.
At full time, the Mary’s C team players took their places on the touchline to watch the night’s main event, a Premiership match between Mary’s A and Hild Bede A.
Prior to the game, Mary’s A team captain Rob Wiles told Palatinate that his side hoped to be “uncomfortable to play against, battling for everything.” This philosophy was on display right from kick-off as Mary’s were first to every ball. At times the approach was a little too enthusiastic – Wiles was fortunate not to get booked for a late challenge, but it worked; Hild Bede were struggling to live with Mary’s intensity and were not given time to settle.
Mary’s got their reward for such a good start with two goals in quick succession through Chris Rimmer, who finished neatly beyond the onrushing keeper, and Folarin Shasore.
With the emphasis now on Hild Bede to chase the game, they did well to weather the early storm and soon began to dominate proceedings, at one stage rattling the post with a thunderous strike. But in Alastair Huse, Mary’s look to have cured last season’s goalkeeper crisis. He provided a welcome safe pair of hands all night and kept Hild Bede at bay.
The second period was an altogether less exciting affair, but much of this has to do with the way that Mary’s, led by captain Rob Wiles, superbly managed the game. Clear goal-scoring opportunities were at a premium between the two sides as Mary’s, content to frustrate their opponents, kept it tight at the back and restricted Hild Bede to half chances.
However, with ten minutes to go Mary’s made one of their first defensive errors, conceding a penalty for handball. Hild Bede buried the spot kick confidently to set up a tense finish. They were now sniffing an equaliser and delivered a couple of tantalising crosses, but to no avail.
Under pressure, Mary’s were relieved to hear the final whistle. A win was the ideal start to the season and a great way to round off a fruitful launch night.
Jamie Monkhouse, a calm presence in defence for Mary’s, spoke to Palatinate at full time:
“We’re absolutely chuffed with that win. We always knew it was going to be a tough game against last year’s league winners so it was great to get two early goals. At half time the message was simple. Rob told us to keep working our socks off. We knew it was going to be incredibly tough after putting in such a big shift early on and we knew that they would keep coming back at us as they’re a very good side.
“The victory gives us huge confidence, knowing that we can play with the best. On our day we can really beat anyone. We’ve got a few things to work on still, we need to be a bit better in possession. But a really good start, we just need to build on it.”
Photograph: Matt Roberts