Mark Harvey wheels away to celebrate scoring his side’s second goalImran Marashli

It was a case of sweet revenge for Gonville & Caius I on Saturday afternoon as they knocked Homerton I out of the Cambridge University Association Football League (CUAFL) Cuppers tournament with a convincing home performance. They made up for their narrow 3–2 defeat last week, with two first-half goals from Angus Bain and Mark Harvey.

As the season progressed towards knockout football the stakes were already higher than usual, but this game had an added importance for the Caians: their seconds had been narrowly and perhaps controversially defeated at Barton Road by the Homertonians last week. However, Caius’ first team were simply too strong for Homerton to handle across all areas of the pitch – though they will be disappointed not to have put the game to bed and embellished the score line more.

The gap in quality was noticeable from the kick-off, as Homerton, playing in a somewhat experimental formation, struggled to string passes together thanks to Caius’ confident possession football and industrious pressing. This early Caius fluidity, however, only led to some innocuous set pieces, which were dealt with comfortably, and the game was further punctuated by stoppages due to injuries to Ollie Smith and skipper Ethan Sorrell.

Despite the delay, the home side quickly rediscovered their rhythm and started applying the pressure again, with the diminutive and irrepressible Callum Parker, in particular, pulling the strings majestically from midfield and George Tuohy and Charlie Sparkes making some incisive runs in behind the Homerton defence. The pressure eventually paid off midway into the first half: some lovely passing football and dribbling from midfield sliced through the Homerton lines and released a ball in behind the defence, which ended with Angus Bain stabbing home a sharp finish to give the home side a deserved lead.

It was not plain sailing for the home side, with only a one-goal lead. They were almost made to pay for a slight lapse in concentration as a Homerton set piece was fired over by their centre-back from a free header at the near post – it was the best chance the Homertonians would have in the first 45 minutes. The half would prove to be a tale of two headers, though, as Caius doubled their lead on the stroke of half-time. Centre-back Mark Harvey trotted forwards for a corner and planted a bullet of a header beyond the desperate attempts of Homerton keeper Oscar Wilson to make it 2–0 and better reflect the dynamic of the game.

The second half was much like the beginning of the first, but Caius failed to make the most of some promising positions, which allowed Homerton to start to gain a more secure foothold in the game and threaten a somewhat precarious lead. Homerton’s growing confidence was evident as Caius’ defence came under the cosh, and a quick break down the left saw Chinedum Echeta burst through on goal but drag his shot wide of the post. The warning signs for Caius continued to come, as more good work down the Homerton left created another chance with a lofted ball towards the far post, but this was spurned by a wayward header from Rohan Hall.

This Homerton resurgence gave Caius a much-needed wake-up call, and they almost put the game to bed when George Tuohy, who was a livewire throughout the game down Caius’ right flank, found himself free at the back post from a free kick. Agonisingly, though, he could only flick his header onto the bar.

Caius’ failure to kill the game meant that it was a nervy and cagey last few minutes when Homerton pulled one back late in the match. A lofted ball over the top allowed Eugenio Fenatio to latch onto the pass for a one-on-one with Caius keeper Steinemann, a clear chance that was coolly slotted into the bottom corner. Homerton, therefore, scored with only their first shot on target.

Nevertheless, Caius managed to hold off Homerton’s late pressure and almost killed the game for good by missing two more great opportunities. Tuohy missed another chance at the back post from a set piece, while the effervescent Angus Bain was hauled down by Hall when racing clear one-on-one with the keeper. The referee’s generosity alone prevented the foul from producing a red card, but the incident became academic as the final whistle was blown shortly afterwards.

Homerton skipper Toby Brown spoke with Varsity after the game, reflecting on the difficulties of their new system in the early stages of the match. “We injured a few of them, but clearly not enough. It’s a tough one to take, being out of the cup, but the mind’s always ahead on the next game. We want to win the Plate – if you want to make an omelette, you’ve got to break a few eggs. But we’ve got a bop tonight, so it’s alright.”

Hobbling but happy, Gonville & Caius captain Ethan Sorrell remarked: “It was really well done, especially considering we had some early injuries. I’m very happy with the performance of all the freshers and all the old boys too, so we’re looking forward to seeing how far we can make it in the Cup. It would have been nice if we could have got a clean sheet – we got a bit unlucky towards the end of the game, but we got two quality goals, so I’m happy with that.”

Gonville & Caius I: Steinemann, Fletcher, Jacques, Voice, Harvey, Sparkes, Sorrell (c), Tuohy, Bain, Parker, Smith

Subs: Miller, Ashton, Johns

Homerton I: Wilson, Jones, Boughton, Cawthorne, Fryer, Echeta, Delaprida, Brown (c), Nestore, Fenatio, Black

Subs: Dodd

Referee: Charles Martland