Match Reports: OUAFC Blues, Centaurs, Colts & Broncos
Blues 1-1 Nottingham Uni 1sts
The Blues travelled up to high-fliers Nottingham, knowing that the match would be a stern test of both sides’ title credentials. Playing on a 3G pitch, fresh from a torrential downpour, it was clear that the facilities would be conducive to the sort of football the Blues like to play. For much of the match, however, Nottingham monopolised possession of the ball. For all their possession though, Nottingham rarely challenged Langham’s goal, resorting to the odd speculative effort from 25 yards out as the Blues defended with great shape and discipline. Indeed, it was the Blues who looked the more likely of the two sides to break the deadlock, with several counter attacks spearheaded by Thelen and Barton leading to dangerous strikes on goal. The Blues went in at the break somewhat disappointed not to find themselves in front, having spurred three excellent chances to take the lead. The second half continued in a similar vein to the first, with Nottingham having the lion’s share of the ball but the Blues looking the more dangerous of the two on the counter. However, 15 minutes from time disaster struck for the Blues as the Nottingham forward pounced on a loose ball at the edge of the area and put a heavily-deflected strike past Langham. The Blues remained calm despite going behind somewhat undeservedly, and five minutes from time the goal duly arrived: Cantrill’s deep cross finding its way to Duxbury at the back post, who beat the defender and powered past the keeper to snatch a point and spark scenes of celebration. With seconds to spare, the Blues almost claimed victory as they found themselves in behind Nottingham again, but Thelen was thwarted by the keeper. 1-1 it finished, and the Blues took a vital point as they look to build on their title challenge.
Centaurs 3-0 Oxford Brookes 1sts
This week was cup week, and with a deeply impressive, unbeaten start to the year, the centaurs now faced their toughest task – Brookes’ 1st team. While many of the squad have made returns from injuries in recent weeks, many key members were still missing, some suffering from never ending blisters and others from a mildly grazed knee. This game was not only a local rivalry, but with the Blues facing the same side the following week in Varsity, it was an opportunity to make a statement of the intent of OUAFC.
Since the calibre of the opposition was sure to be much higher, Jonny Betteridge decided to change from the usual; 3-5-2 formation, centred around possession and controlling the game, into a slightly more defensive 4-2-3-1, and play counter attacking football.
The opening minutes of the game saw the Centaurs adapting to the new style of play, with a few half chances falling to the opposition, but nothing that would worry Asa Kerr-Davis in goal. Ben Gregory was forced off early having rolled his ankle and Matt Evans came on to replace him. Brookes played with a strong battling striker, but with big boy Ryan Clark dominating him in the air, and Matt sweeping up anything that made it past him, it seemed that this threat had been nullified. Slowly the Centaurs grew into the game, playing into the channels for a pacey front three of Maxwell Jones, Femi Williams and Kanyinsola Akinwuntan to chase down. This out ball enabled Oxford to get a firm grip on the game with most of their possession being in Brookes’ half.
The change of formation was proving effective, and with a well organised structure, the Centaurs were hard to break down. With about 25 minutes played the Centaurs were now truly on top, and after a few half chances, the first big one of the game arrived. A poor clearance from the Brookes keeper dropped in the midfield to Findlay. A first time pass to Williams saw him turn and play a beautifully weighted ball through to Duncan Norton. With the Brookes centre back applying pressure, Norton dragged his shot wide, but the attempt showed how easily the Brookes team could be cut through.
No more than five minutes later, with the Centaurs playing on the break, the ball came wide to Akin, who worked a yard of space and delivered an inch perfect cross over the CB for Maxwell. Of course, Maxwell took a touch and fired his shot straight at the keeper, but the ball rebounded back to him, and on his second attempt he found the back of the net.
With half time approaching, the Centaurs were getting more confident and found themselves with much of the possession in the final third. This led to the Centaurs being susceptible to the counter and forced Dan Clifford into bringing down opposing midfielders running at the defence. He picked up a well-deserved, but very necessary, booking. The Centaurs made it into half time 1-0 up. With the yellow card he had picked up, and not wanting to go down to 10 men, Clifford was forced off at half time and replaced with Fordwoh.
The second half saw a Brookes side clearly more fired up. They had most of the possession, but in areas that did not concern the Centaurs. The 4-2-3-1 formation was allowing the Brookes defence time on the ball, but cross field tracking from Femi Williams prevented them from carrying the ball out, and a well organised structure behind him resulted in the ball often being forced long and the Centaurs regaining possession. Not wanting to over-play at the back, the ball was usually just released into the channels and the tireless work of Femi to chase down these balls, and win the team something, be it possession or territory, was essential for the Centaurs success.
With the half going on, and the Brookes team still not looking threatening, Duncan collected the ball in the defensive half, spinning, and sending the opposition CDM back to Headington Hill. He slipped the ball out to Maxwell in the channel, who ran at the Brookes’ left back. Beating the full back twice for good measure, Jones decided to return the first half favour to Akin and float the ball over towards the back stick. With the defender taking a swing and miss at the ball, Akin had time to take a touch and calmly stoke the ball past the keeper. 2-0 to Oxford.
The game continued, and the last couple of substitutions were made. Findlay off for Sam Wall, and Akin off for Joe Hughes. With 10 minutes left to play, Duncan delivered a delicious ball from a corner to see Matt Evans tower above his man and nod the lads 3-0 up.
The last five minutes saw one final half chance for Brookes. Their number 9 got free on the edge of the box for the first time in the game but fired his shot just wide of the post.
Fulltime was called and the Centaurs felt that they had comfortably won the match. Their game management and smart defensive decisions had led to a Brookes side being unable to break them down, while the battling and hard work of the front three, particularly Femi, had resulted in the Centaurs looking dangerous all game.
Oxford University Centaurs advance through to the next round of the cup, and now feel that they could truly beat anyone left in the competition.
Colts 2-1 UEA 3rds
The OUAFC Colts pushed through to the last 32 of the cup in a match full of passion and grit. UEA 3s started well passing the ball around the centre and hitting the channels for their quick front three to run on to; they scored from an early corner to go ahead, 0-1.
After this UEA pushed on to get a goal from a long through ball only for it to disallowed for offside, the Colts bounced back to score, only for it to be controversially ruled out for offside.
Now with a good foothold in the match the Colts went on to dominate the rest of the match, finding far more space and time in the middle. A super through ball to Dom Bennett's pacey run set up his cross-cum-shot which sneaked into the back of the net over their goalkeeper, 1-1.
The boys in blue then pushed on and scored a scrappy goal which was rocketed into John Pougué Biyong's back and trickled in to the UEA net, 2-1. Half-time came and the second half was fairly uneventful but the Colts looked far more solid following the arrival of coach Chris. The defence were the second half hero's, buffering UEAs pressure.
Dan Haxell earned Man of the Match for his solidity in the back and Dom Bennett won Dick of the Day for his poor cross which managed to beat the keeper for the Colt's opener.
Broncos 3-0 Cranfield Uni 1sts
The Oxford Broncos, coming into the game following three consecutive wins, were looking to keep up the momentum in this Cup tie against a team playing one league higher.
Oxford started on the front foot, on the perfect Iffley Road pitch. Pressing high and playing on the floor, they threatened the visiting side’s goal on numerous corners in the first 20 minutes, failing, however, to create any clear-cut chances. The football was tidy. Oxford’s midfield was dominant, and the home team also managed to use the width adequately, hitting winger Wiggins and Hogdson, and striker Jackson, in the channels.
However, as the rain started pouring, Oxford entered its toughest period of the game. Finally getting out of their half, Cranfield did not really play through the Bronco’s back four but were very dangerous on two long distance shots, following missed clearances by the home side. Goalkeeper Mukhles, who otherwise had a pretty quiet afternoon, saved his team on both occasions with fantastic dives on his left, deflecting the quick low ball away from his nets.
Oxford took the control of the game back after this 10 minutes long weak period, and were well on top until half-time, adding noticeable chances to the good but fruitless football that had been played until then. Hodgson, in particular, caused havoc on his right-hand side. After a brilliant first touch in the box, getting rid of the defender, his low shot turned into a cross but Wiggins, free at the back post, failed to convert. A few minutes later, Hodgson, again, played a perfect ball in the channel for Jackson, who beat the centre-back with pace, forcing him to bring him down irregularly. The claims for penalty were ignored by the referee, who gave a free-kick on the right-hand side edge of the box. Hogdson’s attempt to go for goal by himself with an ambitious low-shot, instead of crossing it, failed big time, and was surprisingly omitted by his teammates when debriefing the game in Corpus’ bar.
Dominant on the pitch, Oxford still headed back to the changing room with a 0-0 draw at half-time. The goals were to come, however, soon into the second half. A new dodgy challenge, this time fully inside the box, gave Oxford the chance to open the mark on penalty. Stovall-Kurtz, the Broncos’ centre-attacking midfielder, stepped-up and beat the keeper on his right, despite his good dive. The American player then proceeded to celebrate by stirring-up the crowd, about 5 people who came from Brasenose to watch Tom Steer and his naughty overlaps from the right hand-side of the defence, rather than for the game itself. The match started to become even more one-sided. Oxford played some brilliant football, from the back, while Cranfield never looked threatening again.
This logically led to a second goal. Jackson’s brilliant game was rightly rewarded. The striker, strong all game long to hold the ball against two tall centre-backs, first hit the cross-bar from an absolutely cheeky chip on the edge of the box. The whole stadium (that is, the players and Steer’s mates) saw the ball bounced beyond the line, but the referee was hesitant. In confusion, the game carried-on, and, ten seconds later, the ball came back to Jackson, whose tidy finish, this time, left nobody in doubt: Oxford were 2-0 up.
Once again outrunning their opponents, Oxford carried-on dominating and pressing. All 16 players in the squad had some time on the pitch, and every single substitute stepped-up immediately. Joey Gompels, for his return back from injury, signalled himself with a naughty turn that left Cranfield’s winger on his bottom, perhaps leading, 5 minutes later, to a bit too much enthusiasm when it came to this weird cross-shot, well wide of the goal and that got him a distinction in the post-game Corpus gathering. The tempo slowed down slightly, but, a few minutes before the end, Wilson scored the third. Excellent on the ball all game-long, the centre-midfielder allowed himself a run, going past a few players and taking advantage of a rather dodgy goal-keeping to score in the empty nets, to the great pleasure of two members of his family who came for the second-half.
The referee blew the final whistle on this score. Oxford are through to the next round and will be looking to continue their run on November 21st.