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Match Reports: OUAFC Blues, Centaurs, Colts & Broncos

  (Ben Goldstein / Cherwell)

(Ben Goldstein / Cherwell)

BLUES

Blues 2-2 Loughborough 2nds

Coming into the game on the back of two consecutive wins, Oxford were hoping to close the one point gap between themselves and league leaders Nottingham firsts, and had a great chance to do so against Loughborough’s second team. The Midlands side were sitting at the bottom of the Midlands 1A division, having lost their opening three games.

The Blues started the match well, putting the Loughborough team under sustained pressure with their aerial dominance and strong physical play. This aggressive start paid dividends for the Blues, forcing errors from a Loughborough side that struggled to maintain possession.

The first chance of the game came the Blues’ way after a nice move resulted in Pat Barton playing the ball through to Dom Thelen, whose shot dragged wide of the post. A great chance that should have been converted.

Soon after, a great piece of skill from Zachary Liew, whose link up play with Captain Leo Ackerman on the left hand side troubled Loughborough for much of the first half, led to an incisive ball that cut through the Loughborough box, falling at the feet of Chris Caveney, whose shot was deflected out for a corner. Ackerman’s out swinging corner kick was decisively headed towards goal by Thelen but just missed the target.

Oxford’s dominance was really starting to show now and, despite Thelen receiving a yellow card for an ill-judged complaint at a poor refereeing decision, they showed no signs of relenting.

The Blues bench were once more on their feet just after the half-hour mark when a great shot on goal from Caveney drew an equally good save from the Loughborough keeper, but again, the reward for Oxford’s supremacy proved elusive.

The decisive moment came just before half-time and, despite their poor quality in the first half, it was Loughborough who scored. A momentary switch off from Liew left a gaping hole that was duly penetrated by a quick ball out from the back which was soon passed on to Loughborough’s pacy number nine, who would’ve struggled to miss from such close range.

The half-time whistle blew and Oxford were left ruing their missed opportunities in the first half, particularly as they only managed to test the keeper on one occasion.

The Loughborough side came out of the dressing room far more composed after the first goal had relieved some pressure. The Blues were undeterred though, and less than ten minutes into the first half a free-kick was given in Oxford’s favour. Whipped in by Ackerman, the ball was met by an unchallenged Thelen head and found its way into the back of the net, drawing Oxford level.

The game now evened out as Loughborough responded well, showing a fight that had been almost entirely absent in the first 45 minutes. The match became a more closely contested affair and it was a foul on the edge of Oxford’s penalty area by Oli Cantril that led to another Loughborough breakthrough and the Blues once more looking at a one-goal deficit.

15 minutes later, a great pass from Oxford’s Pat Collins to Thelen led to a corner ball for Oxford which Loughborough struggled to defend, only managing to put the ball out of play for a corner on the opposite side of the pitch. Loughborough again showed their difficulties defending set-pieces as the ball found its way to an indecisive player in purple who was muscled off the ball by a determined Ram Choudhury. The ball then found its way back to Ackerman who provided the cross for Oxford’s second headed goal, this time from winger Caveney.

Two Oxford substitutions sought to inject some pace into the game, and Oxford nearly snuck a winning goal after a nice free kick routine caught Loughborough unawares. The remaining ten minutes of the second half resulted in few chances as the teams largely nullified each other’s threats and the final whistle blew, meaning Oxford had to settle for a solitary point and regret not making more of their first half dominance.

By Joseph Sibley (http://cherwell.org/2018/11/07/oxford-held-at-home-by-loughborough/)

Centaurs

Centaurs 2-2 Northampton 2nds

‘Another Wednesday, another BUCS away-fixture’ were, I’m sure, the words on the lips of each Centaurs player as they sprang out of bed on October 31st. Illness, injuries, unavailability, and chronic bouts of blisters have plagued the Centaurs squad of late, but they approached a tricky away tie against Northampton II’s with clear eyes and a steely determination. Unlike the previous week’s Cup fixture against Worcester, there were three points up for grabs against Northampton, and the Centaurs were determined to drive home with all (or at least most) of them.

The auguries were not promising. Ever-reliable skipper Jonny Betteridge – a man from whom Bear Grylls himself would take lessons on preparedness and forward-planning – had inexplicably forgotten to reserve the team’s customary minibus for the trip. Travelling instead in a two-car fleet of Citroen Picassos, several undeniably big boys were consigned to cramped seats in the boot. Arrival in Northampton did not raise spirits much further – a lack of changing rooms, air filled with firework smoke, and a playing surface more reminiscent of rocky Carpathian steppes than a football pitch all convinced the Centaurs that the game was going to be a genuine battle.

Northampton were a large side, with some threatening dribblers at the top of the pitch, and very physical defenders tasked with keeping Centaurs striking duo Maxwell Jones and Femi Williams quiet. After much pre-game discussion about the importance of an intense and aggressive performance, however, the Centaurs threw themselves into the game with gusto. Midfield three John Findlay, Sam Wall, and a man-of-the-match winning Dan Clifford (on his Centaurs debut) belied their stature in comparison to the Northampton midfield and dominated early proceedings. The Centaurs back-line were dealing with the opposition’s direct tactics comfortably, and it wasn’t long until Oxford’s superiority told on the scoresheet. An overload down the left-hand side, some nice interplay between Alex Guzel and Maxwell Jones, and Oxford were in behind. A looping ball was sent to the back-post of the Northampton goal where John Findlay stooped, unmarked as a fresh pad of A4, to gratefully head the ball into the gaping net.

Immediately after the goal the Centaurs set about trying to increase their lead. Players were winning their individual battles all over the pitch, and the tireless work of their two strikers was essential to the Oxford team’s progression of the ball upfield. The pitch itself made the neat passing football which has made the side one of the form teams in the country an impossibility. Forced to play more direct, Oxford were taking on Northampton at their own game – and winning.

Oxford’s second came through a John Findlay free-kick, though the goal itself is one the Northampton keeper will look back on with considerable remorse. Seemingly walking over to collect the ball under no pressure, the goalkeeper somehow contrived to bounce the ball off his own shins and into the net.

With a two-goal lead the Centaurs should have been in a position to cruise to a fourth consecutive win, but alas, life is rarely so straightforward. Some sloppy marking allowed the Northampton target man to stab home from an innocuous set piece after a fine first-time save by Centaurs keeper Asa Kerr-Davis. The goal was a source of deep frustration for Oxford – as yet again the opposition had barely threatened in open play and been gifted a sloppy goal. But at half-time the message from Captain Betteridge was to encourage more of the same. This was a new kind of test for the Centaurs, and so far they had answered the questions posed by Northampton emphatically.

In the second half, it must be said, Northampton raised their level. Playing with more energy and forward thrust, the home side assumed more of a leading role in the contest after the break. Despite this, however, the Centaurs’ defence – well-drilled by Ryan Clark and Ben Gregory, and shielded by three whirling dervishes in midfield – held firm and never looked unduly troubled. With ten minutes remaining, however, disaster struck. An aimless ball in from the Northampton right wing was met in the air by an astonishing header from the Northampton right back, lurking upfield after a corner. Twisting in mid-air, he sent a header fully from the 18-yard line looping into the top-right of Kerr-Davis’ goal. As he wheeled away in celebration, as stunned as everyone else on the pitch, the Centaurs felt as though they had been punched in the gut.

In such moments are seasons defined, however. Refusing to crumble or feel sorry for themselves, the Centaurs relaunched themselves into the contest with a furious energy. Three times the Northampton back-line was lacerated by Oxford attacks – the first drawing a fine save from the Northampton goal, the latter two yielding very strong penalty appeals. One appeal, in particular, seemed very harshly denied, with Centaurs speedster Jones the target of a wild two-footed lunge by the Northampton centre-half, the ball nowhere to be seen.

The game ended 2-2; a frustrating result, but a performance that bodes well for Oxford moving forward. They remain unbeaten in the league, well-placed in the Cup, and are becoming more well-oiled by the week. The day’s football resulted in an 8-point Wednesday. Less points than the much-feted 12 point Wednesday of a few weeks before, but more points than many other kinds of Wednesday. As of now, the question spreading like autumnal cold sores on BUCS lips is this: how long will the Centaurs remain unbeaten?

Colts

Colts 4-1 Derby Uni 5ths

An inspirational second-half fightback from Oxford Men’s 3rd XI secured a  4-1 win over Derby Men’s 5th XI at Uni Parks.

A poor second-half performance from Derby saw their hard work undone after being 1-0 up at half time. Tom McGrath scored the visitors’ only goal, slotting away a 38th minute penalty.

Second half goals from Graff, McCabe, Jones and an own goal from Matt Clewes sealed a second league win of the season for the hosts.

Oxford started the brighter of the two sides and had chances to open the scoring. Bennett on the right-hand side looked most likely to make something happen but he couldn’t keep his shot down from the edge of the box after 10 minutes.

It was Derby who then had a great opportunity to open the scoring midway through the first half. Ollie King was played through and beat a few challenges, but a crucial last ditch tackle stopped the creative midfielder from scoring.

The away side did break the deadlock with just a few minutes left of the half. McGrath was brought down in the box by skipper Josh Penollar, following a mazy run. The fouled man stepped up and slotted into the bottom left corner, leaving the goalkeeper with no chance.

Oxford flew out of the blocks in the second period and Derby crumbled under the pressure. The hosts equalised 15 minutes after the restart. Graff was given too much space in the middle of the park before curling a left-footed shot right into the corner to bring the sides level.

Oxford continued to press and deservingly took the lead on 73 minutes. The rapid Bennett was found on the right and he squared the ball across the box where it was scrambled into the net by the unfortunate Matt Clewes.  

The afternoon didn’t get any easier for Derby as the hosts went further in front. Oxford broke from a defensive corner and McCabe was slipped through on goal by Bennett where he slotted past Ryan Plant.

Derby fell apart late on and conceded a fourth with just three minutes left of the match. Jones, who had been introduced from the bench, was the man that scored his side’s fourth goal, hammering a left footed half volley into the bottom right corner from point-blank range.

That’s how it ended in Oxford as their second-half comeback secured a much needed three points.

Broncos

Broncos 3-2 Nottingham 5ths

The Broncos won their second league game in a row, after a thrilling 3-2 success over Nottingham 5’s at Marston Ferry grounds.  

It was, however, hard to imagine such a positive ending to the afternoon 20 minutes into the game. A really strong start by the opposition meant Oxford were under intense pressure very quickly. Nottingham used their domination in midfield to send their pacey wingers into the channels, and exploit the space behind Oxford’s fullbacks. The domination was soon to be rewarded by the first goal of the game, a tap-in following a good, low cross from their right-winger. Notts carried on playing direct football and putting Oxford fullbacks, Steer and Paugam, under real pressure. This led to the second goal: the ball was lost in midfield, and Oxford were out of position. It was played into the box and slotted home in confusion, after a few deflections, failed clearances, and claims from the home side that the ball went out of play.  

Great teams, however, reveal themselves in adversity, and the Broncos’ reaction was a prime example of why anyone trying to predict a football game after 20 minutes would be foolish. Far from giving up, the home-side started playing the football they show at training. The pressure was more intense, 50-50’s started to be won, and the ball, was, at last, played on the floor. Oxford, using the pace of Wiggins and Jackson on the wings, and the incessant runs of Ace up top, threatened Notts’ goal on numerous occasions. But the keeper proved solid, and was saved by the woodwork twice, following great attacking moves from the Broncos. Ace’s first-time finish hit the cross-bar, while Jackson’s shot from a cross rolled to the post, relieving a completely outplayed Nottingham defence.

Oxford thus went into half-time with a frustrating two-goals deficit, but with high hopes of overturning the course of the game. The home team could not start the second half better: playing entirely in Notts’ half, the Broncos were rewarded by a goal from Lai early on, a deflected shot from twenty-yards that beat the keeper on his right. The contrast with the first half was striking: Oxford’s press forced Notts into missing their passes. The back-four, led by captain Amissah-Eshun, locked-down their attacking-line, and keeper Mukhles was there to be the sweeper on the few occasions where Nottingham got in behind. By far the better side at this stage of the game, the Broncos logically equalised thanks to Jackson’s cool finish in the box.

 A 2-2 draw against such a strong side would have been a good result, but Oxford wanted more. They kept on attacking and pressing, and looked much fitter than the opposition – a fact that unfortunately vindicates coach Sanmi’s choice to roast his player every Friday with shuttle runs. And, precisely when fate seemed to be in Notts’ favour as the Broncos hit the woodwork for the third time, after Jackson dribbled two players and shot, Oxford scored the winner. The rebound fell into the path of substitute Taylor who slotted it home with a precise finish for his debut in the University set-up. The Broncos celebrated loudly, goalkeeper Mukhles allowing himself a sprint to the bench that will be remembered. 5 minutes were left to play, but the home side remained solid and Nottingham never looked close to an equaliser. The referee blew his whistle to this sensational comeback by the Broncos, who will be looking to keep their momentum next week at Iffley in the Cup.

OUAFCBlues, Featured