Level 1 broke the tournament record score by beating the Alumni 9-1 to reach the JMU Journalism World Cup Final in their opening game.
It was a sensational start by the first years, who commanded proceedings and were clearly the better side throughout, with youth proving the master over vast experience on this occasion.
For the Alumni, who have conceded 22 goals in their last three outings, questions must now be asked as to how many of the current squad can hold onto their places.
But while the sun appears to be setting on the playing careers of some of the veterans, there could scarcely have been a more promising beginning by the new boys, who will now fancy their chances of denying Level 3 a third successive title in next week’s final.
The Alumni had the game’s first true opportunity when Matt Crosby burst into the penalty area from the left flank only to be denied by Sheldon McGovern, and then taking a painful blow in the face as the ball cannoned back off the ‘keeper’s knees.
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It was a false alarm for Level 1, who soon found their rhythm as Paul Kelly clipped the crossbar from 25 yards out, setting the scene for a feast of goals.
Tim Abraham made his Alumni debut by pulling on goalie gloves for the first time in his life, but soon wished he hadn’t after falling backwards and watching Will Moore’s wildly speculative lob bounce over his head and into the net. It became clear that Level 1 sensed a weakness, and they exploited it to the full, with instructions deployed to shoot on sight.
Hat-trick star Josh Brain steadied himself before sending a guided missile of a drive into the corner to double the lead inside 18 minutes. Alumni ‘striker’ Gary Maiden then drifted hopelessly out of position to lazily give the ball away to Tom Ellis, who beat two defenders before smashing in the third.
A rare surge forward for the old boys broke down and they were punished on the counterattack when Toby Corkin emphatically drove home to make it 4-0 at the interval.
The goalkeeping gamble having failed, the Alumni turned to the towering Steven Carson in an attempt to stem the tidal flow between the posts in the second half, but it was not to be. Level 1 quickly extended the gap courtesy of Bath-based bombshell Brain cleverly placing a left-footed volley into the top corner.
Carson’s miskicked clearance fell straight to Jake Borrer, who chipped it back over him to rack up another goal, then the impressive Corkin added a seventh.
The Alumni’s solitary reply came after Nick Seddon’s attempted curling shot instead found the head of Adam Jones, who nodded in from three yards out.
Man-of-the match Brain set up Josh Birch to sidefoot home before completing his personal treble and the semi-final rout with a low drive, thus breaking the JMU Journalism World Cup scoring record in a 9-1 demolition job.
The Alumni, who were also on the wrong end of the previous 9-2 landmark defeat last year, knew they had been deservedly thrashed again.
Owen McKendry’s dazzling debutants had been looking forward to this contest for months, and now they will relish their first appearance in the tournament’s showpiece match against holders Level 3 at IM Marsh on Monday.