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Match Report: Women's Blues v Cambridge

Photo: Oliver Whitaker

Photo: Oliver Whitaker

Women’s Blues 0-0 Cambridge 

The Oxford women’s football Blues were able to hold onto a 0-0 draw against the Cambridge 1st team on Sunday. When the two teams last met, the dark blues unfortunately lost out with a 5-1 score line at full time, so they had a lot to prove in the second leg of the draw. The game in Michaelmas saw many key players get injured, so with a good number of the players since returning to the pitch, their performance showed great improvements since the clash last term. It was a sunny afternoon at Iffley when the team took on their rivals in an important league clash for both teams, Cambridge angling for second place and Oxford looking to score their first point. 

The start of the game saw an exciting balance of play, with the action pinballing from box to box. Oxford looked eager to put their stamp on the game with neat passing and inventive movement. Soon, however, Cambridge settled into the match and appeared to dominate the flow of play. Nonetheless, some boisterous defending from Oxford’s back four stopped them posing any serious threat in the first half. Winger Rani Wermes was moved to striker for the match, who used her pace on a number of occasions to sneak past the Cambridge defence. An early chance saw one of her shots go just wide of the goal. Ella Vickers Strutt also made use of the space out on the wings with some fruitful runs down the left-hand side. Lots of long balls were fired her way, but unfortunately the Cambridge defence shut down any credible shots on goal.

A tense moment came in the 22nd minute when a shot from a Cambridge attacker crept passed the outstretched hands of the goalkeeper, but it hit the post and defenders were then able to clear it from the Oxford box. Some clever movement came through the centre on the counter attack as a pinpoint ball from midfielder Ellana Slade was later crossed into the Oxford attackers, but no one was able to get a head to it. An attack from the light blues towards the end of the first half looked threatening but a skilful slide tackle from captain Lucy Harper, who looked robust as the last man all through the game, ensured it couldn’t be converted into anything more. 

The second half started with some changes to the squad with Emily Pressley coming on in defence. Also fresh to the pitch was newcomer Lily Dubuc, who is a visiting student from Princeton. She immediately made an impact, running cleanly down the left wing and putting a shot on target, only for it to be stopped by the keeper. The second half looked to be a bit more difficult for Oxford – despite signature composure from Taiye Lawal in the middle, the team started to look more tired as the game went on. As the press started to slow down the Cambridge team seemed more comfortable working the ball up the pitch. The Oxford goalkeeper Anna Garcia was having to start working a bit harder as the pressure mounted in her half.  

The final ten minutes proved the most nail-biting. Cambridge, who had also subbed on some fresh legs, were increasing pressure on the Oxford defence. The attackers were able to take several shots on goal, one particularly close shave saw a strike just skimming the cross bar. Despite some convincing attacks, defenders were able to group together and hold on to their one point draw with a new found energy and fearlessness that kept the ball out of the back of the net.

Former Blue Claudia Hill who came down to watch said she was deeply impressed by the improvement in the squad from their last game against the light blues. Having suffered a loss against them already his year, the team’s spirits will hopefully be buoyed by a draw this time around. The squad should be pleased with game which saw a lot of fluid football and clever decisions on and off the ball. When the two teams next meet again it will be at the 2019 women’s football varsity during the Easter vacation. After a win last year, the Blues will be hoping to build even further upon this improvement to keep up their Varsity streak. With more players returning from injury and focused training between now and then the squad have every chance to take home the trophy once again.

Written by Martha Comerford for Cherwell