Match Report: Nottingham 0-1 Men's Blues
Goal: Jake Duxbury
Assist: Dom Thelen
MOM: Cian Wade, Mo Eghleilib
DOD: Jack Witt
The Blues arrived in a blustery Nottingham with 30 minutes to go before kick off. With their opponents looking very sharp in their warmup, it was clear that the travelling fans were not going to be disappointed. That said, their hopes for a game filled with tiki-taka football were quelled by a relentless crosswind.
Using the weather to their advantage, Oxford shocked a confident Nottingham side with a high-press early on, intercepting several of the oppositions cross-field passes. Initial signs were promising – work on the training ground paid off when a long ball into Achtel was set back to Naylor who slid a dangerous ball to find Witt in the channel, alas, Nottingham’s defence held strong. With momentum behind them, the Blues’ attacking force grew in confidence. The Nottingham centre-back managed to escape Eghleilib’s pocket for just long enough to see Shaw fly past on the wing, before firing a dangerous ball into the box.
The Blues faced a huge blow late in the first half, with Achtel going down injured, having looked the most dangerous player on the pitch. With Duxbury struggling to locate his shin-pads on the touch line, Oxford’s defence had to grit their teeth with ten men. The Bain-Wicker combo refused to budge, keeping the ball moving whilst nullifying the opposition’s midfield. The half-time whistle signalled the end of a fiercely competitive 45 minutes.
With 70 minutes on the clock, Evans had seamlessly slotted into an unfamiliar role in his first competitive Blues game and Oxford’s back line repelled yet another Nottingham attack. The seemingly impenetrable Urwin, Wade and Hale were increasingly frustrating a Nottingham side that were desperate to kick off the season with a Home victory. Now feeling the wind in his back, Hale began testing the Nottingham fullbacks with dangerous diagonals, whilst a slightly more defensively-minded Wade won anything that landed remotely close to Oxford’s box.
The clock was now showing 80. The game had become stretched and it was clear that only a moment of genius could separate the two sides. Meanwhile Thelen, nursing an injury picked up in training, finally managed to persuade coach Mickey Lewis to let him onto the field. With only a minute of normal time to play, the result could no longer be in doubt – a 0-0 to start the season would allow both sides to walk away, heads held high.
Thelen, however, had other ideas. Achtel’s stern instruction to test the keeper were clearly ringing in his ears as he shook off his man and snatched a shot off his weaker foot. The goalkeeper threw himself to his right, keeping out the shot inches from the line, much to the relief of the opposition. As Nottingham breathed a sigh of relief, Duxbury sensed an opportunity. In a flash, he had pounced on the loose ball and buried it into the back of the net. With the whistle following a long 2 minutes later, the Blues had started their campaign in the best possible fashion.
By Jack Witt.