After edging past St. Aidan’s on penalties in the quarter-finals, Collingwood enter the last four seeking their third successive Floodlit trophy. For those who are not familiar with the format of the competition, the A team of each college battles it out for bragging rights in a series of knockout rounds. The holders have endured a difficult route to the semi-finals, but find themselves well on track to retain their crown.
Who stands in their way?
Collingwood face Premiership strugglers Josephine Butler in the semi-finals, who they dispatched 6-0 in the league earlier this season. While their league form has left much to be desired, Butler’s performance in the Floodlit has redeemed what has been an otherwise disappointing campaign.
Even so, this won’t be a formality. Though on paper Collingwood should advance to their fourth final in as many years, 2015 Floodlit champions Josephine Butler will undoubtedly give them a run for their money.
In the other semi-final clash, Hatfield will face the victor of Van Mildert and John Snow. Despite eliminating Grey in the last sixteen back in October, Collingwood can yet face some of college football’s toughest opponents if they progress to the final.
Hatfield who, despite an inconsistent season, have nonetheless registered five wins in their last seven against the elite, including an impressive victory over Collingwood B. Meanwhile, league leaders Van Mildert are in scintillating form and look on course to complete their third consecutive Premiership title.
Anyone’s for the taking
It is easy to overlook outsiders John Snow, who currently sit bottom of the Premiership. Skipper Matt Hulse is acutely aware of his side’s underdog status, but they will refuse to admit defeat:
“We’ve not had a fantastic season so far so we are definitely underdogs for the cup, but having got through the last round we have belief that we can cause an upset. Stranger things have happened!”.
Whilst the magic of the cup has inspired many a ‘cupset’ in college football history, Hulse’s side should be cautious of a dangerous Van Mildert side. In only 11 games, the table-toppers have scored 54 goals in all competitions and conceded on just 5 occasions.
As cup football has proven time and time again, it is fruitless to dwell too intensely over form and league position. Collingwood and Van Mildert may be free-scoring in the league this season, but both sides have had to resort to penalties in order to progress. Hatfield co-captain Ben Gould is all too aware of this and will no doubt relish the occasion:
“We have managed to find a way to win games this year. Mildly inconsistent in the league but we’re on two strong cup runs and at full strength we look like a very decent side. Floodlit is the pinnacle of college football and with the fans cheering under the lights, anything can happen on a Wednesday night. It’s coming home”.
If anyone were to disrupt Collingwood’s Floodlit dominance then it would be a Van Mildert side in fine form. Captain Joe Cass is quietly confident but is still able to recognise the capriciousness of the Floodlit and will be hoping for no surprises against John Snow on Wednesday night:
“We all believe we can do it, but [in the Floodlit] anything can happen. For the past two seasons we’ve been the knocked out having been the better team on the night”.
Can Collingwood do it?
Despite the stiff competition and unpredictability of cup football, Collingwood are well-equipped to defend their Floodlit crown. Lead by Callum Elson and Niall Flanagan, this side is devastatingly clinical, packed with talent and possess a seamless ability to dictate the tempo of the game. Besides their game management, the squad hold themselves to a high standard and are hungry to win.
Whether its college football or at professional level, however, winning a major competition three times in a row is a tall order for any side. In recent times Sevilla’s remarkable three-year defence of the Europa League springs to mind, but achieving such a feat tends to be a rarity.
Additionally, there is automatically a sense of expectation heaped upon such a dominant footballing college as Collingwood. That said, there is no indication to suggest that they will crumble under the pressure; despite Van Mildert’s meteoric rise in recent seasons, it would be foolish to downplay Collingwood’s chances.
See for yourselves
We can speculate over the likely champions of this year’s Floodlit, but the reality is that it is anyone’s to win. Van Mildert’s quarter-final clash with John Snow takes place on Wednesday evening at 20:15 on Crumb 2, with Collingwood’s semi-final encounter against Josephine Butler occurring a week later: same time, same place.
In the Floodlit a big fan presence only adds to the occasion, so I implore everybody, as a neutral or an avid supporter of your college side, to brave the cold weather and witness the highest standard that college football has to offer. The climax to this year’s Floodlit promises to be a good one, you wouldn’t want to miss it.