This year’s B Team football Summer Cup was thrown wide open after the league’s top two finishers, Fylde and Bowland, avoided each other in the group stage draw.
Group Stage Draw
A ball is yet to be kicked, but both sides will already be relishing the opportunity to meet each other in the latter stages of the tournament on the 16th June. The two were the first teams drawn out of the hat, meaning they could only meet in the Semi-Final or Final, should they progress from their groups.
Reigning champions Fylde will be pleased to find themselves in Group B against opponents which they comfortably beat on the way to winning the league this season. Adhering to league form, Fylde look set to finish top of the group, with Cartmel, Graduate, and Grizedale College all fighting it out for a runner up place.
Fylde Captain Matt Poysden spoke optimistically to SCAN about his team’s chances of retaining the cup. He said: “The draw this year gives us a great chance. I am confident that despite difficult games that we shall no doubt encounter throughout the day, we can once again retain the Summer Cup and achieve another double winning season.”
On paper, Graduate College look like favourites to snatch 2nd place in Group B, but after some uncharacteristic losses towards the end of the year they will have to regain their early season form to hold Cartmel and Grizedale at bay.
Cartmel have played some of the most attractive football in the B League this season, and if the conditions are to their liking then they could let the ball do the talking for them. Grizedale cannot be ignored either though, after two years of propping up the league to their competitors, they have been this year’s big surprise. The team that nobody expected to do well have taken three wins on their way to finishing 5th in the league and could yet provide another shock in week nine.
League runners up Bowland will feel that they have a genuine chance of progressing from Group A. Team Captain, Liam Hart spoke to SCAN on his team’s chances in the cup. He said: “I was happy with the draw, obviously avoiding Fylde in the group was a big boost, as they are clearly the favourites after such an impressive season.”
“Having said that, we would love to get Fylde at some point, in the final would be brilliant, as we feel that after such a hard-fought game in the league we would love the chance to get some revenge, and hopefully get our hands on the trophy.”
Close behind Bowland in the league were Graduate College; a technically strong side, but one that has also shown major frailties in their heavy 7-2 opening defeat to Fylde and a shock 6-2 loss to Furness midway through the season.
County College will feel that they had a bad season by their high standards. After two consecutive years of fighting for honours with Fylde, they could only finish fourth this year. Of course, it would be foolish to write off a side which has come so close to winning this competition in the past. Perhaps their best performances are ahead of them.
Pendle have been notoriously tough opponents throughout the year and with one of the strongest defences in the league, any opponent will struggle to break them down. The format of the Summer Cup will suit this pragmatic side perfectly and if they show the same resilience as they have in the league then they will be genuine contenders for the competition.
Furness are a side who experienced a disappointing start to the season, losing all four of their matches in the Michaelmas term. However, a change of fortune in Lent term saw a much more balanced side take impressive wins over Graduate and Bowland. Their turn of fortune in the latter stages of the season suggests that they have the ability to cause more upsets as the tournament progresses.
Lonsdale look like the most likely group stage causalities. However, after a respectable second round exit in the League Cup to County A they mustn’t be erased from the picture completely. Providing they have a fully fit squad they could provide another surprise.
With the first two matches getting under way at 0900am and the tournament finishing in the evening, it is a day that often requires stamina above all else. Only on the 16th itself will we find out who can outlast the rest.