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Sink or Swim vs Swans

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EUAFC is a club brimming with optimism ahead of the second-half of the season. We caught up with Matt James and Owen Jones ahead of the restart of the BUCS season this month to talk about their ambitions for the remaining games.

The 1s were promoted last season and currently sit three points off fourth place in the BUCS Premier South. James says that the difference in standard comparing the two leagues is striking. “The tempo of games is much faster, and the first few games proved a steep learning curve for the first team – the likes of Hartpury and USW (who beat the 1s 4-0 and 3-1 respectively) are such well-drilled, clinical teams. We hadn’t come across that before”.

Though the learning curve may have been steep, lessons have been learnt and the team had a very impressive unbeaten run to end 2018 – including an impressive draw at home to Hartpury and a vital 2-0 win away at Bath – that James says the team are “determined” to continue in 2019.

Football is typically characterised as a team sport that can centre around individuals, and this isn’t just restricted to the professional games. James highlights the performances of George Warne, Joe Henley and Simon Banner, who have all picked up a player of the month award during the autumn for consistently strong performances for their various teams.

EUAFC is, predictably, one of the biggest clubs on campus, fielding 11 teams throughout the club. This strength in depth gives players of all talents the ability to get regular game-time, and so it’s unsurprising that James picks three names and not just a member of the 1s.

First Few games proved a steep learning curve

Indeed, despite being the top side, they aren’t the only point of focus – James emphasises that the 3s are in a fantastic position to mount a title challenge for the Western 3A division, while the three other BUCS teams – the 2s, 4s and 5s – aim to continue to climb the BUCS ladder.

With the absence of a football varsity fixture due to crowd trouble two years ago, James picks out the home game against Swansea on January 30 as their biggest game across the remainder of the calendar.

If the 1s come out on top, they will avoid relegation at Swansea’s expense, though their position could be helped a week earlier if they manage to overcome 2nd place University of South Wales (USW) on the 23rd.

With a relatively youthful outlook to the 1s this season, the club have high hopes that the experience gained this season will act as a catalyst next year to challenge at the top of the Premier South next season.

“It would be great to see as many supporters as possible down at Topsham for that game – it really is a huge one for the 1s”. The extra support could make all the difference – it’s a pivotal game against a Swansea side that Exeter held to a 1-1 draw in Wales back in October, and is the final game of a gruelling league season.

They can challenge next season if they stay up

With the unbeaten USW going into the clash against Exeter on the 23rd as firm favourites, there’s every chance that the clash against Swansea is essentially a relegation play-off.
The permutations:

In the Swansea vs Exeter game, whichever side loses will be relegated. If Exeter were to win against USW, they would only have to avoid defeat against Swansea to stay up. In doing so, they would heavily dent USW’s hopes of claiming the league title; they would have to better Hartpury’s result on the last week to win the league.

A draw against USW would see the Welsh side go level with Hartpury on points, but above them on goal difference – meaning that matching Hartpury’s result on the last game of the season (and staying within three goals of the current league leaders’ result) would see them emerge as winners. For Exeter, a point doesn’t change their situation at all – they would halve the gap with Swansea, but with one game to play this would be immaterial as a draw against the Welsh side would still see Exeter remain bottom.

Should Exeter lose against USW, the men in green would stay bottom, but would still be able to survive the threat of relegation by defeating Swansea. For USW, they would go to the top of the Premier South, and would only have to avoid defeat to win the league should Hartpury fail to win by more than three goals. If Hartpury were to win by a margin of four goals or more, USW would have to win their game.

Complicated though it may seem, the goal for the 1s is quite simple – stay up.

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