Varsity: Heartbreak at Craven Cottage

 

The highest scoring Varsity match since 1960 ended in bitter defeat for the Dark Blues, as their rowing counterparts claimed victory downriver. Two late goals ended Oxford’s hopes of winning a game that started full of promise.  After going behind and then equalising three times, they were two minutes away from extra time when a defensive mix up gifted Cambridge the lead.  A fourth equaliser was beyond even tenacious Oxford, and as they pushed men forward Cambridge scored their fifth in the last minute.

The opening few minutes were open, with chances at both ends.  Tom Wherry headed a corner narrowly wide, while at the other end Cambridge centre forward Matt Stock was well tackled by Toby Hodgson having outmuscled Paul Rainford.  Stock was a constant threat, and scored the first of his four goals after twelve minutes.  A Cambridge free-kick from out wide was headed back across goal, and while Oxford stood and watched, Stock turned the ball in at the far post.

Despite Stock’s menace, Oxford were increasingly confident on the ball as the first half progressed.  The two wide men, Homer Sullivan and James Kelly linked well with Alex Toogood as an equaliser looked increasingly likely.  It came after thirty-three minutes, when Sullivan cut in from the right wing and powered the ball past Cambridge goalkeeper James Dean.

The sloppiness which was to afflict Oxford all afternoon showed itself again minutes before the interval.  An almost unopposed Cambridge counterattack culminated in Matt Stock’s second goal as he lobbed the onrushing David Robinson.

Undeservedly trailing at half time, a re-energised Oxford team equalised seconds after the restart.  Sullivan broke down the right, playing in Toogood, whose shot was turned in by Kelly at the far post.  The momentum was lost, however, just three minutes later. The onset of rain during the interval dampened the pitch, and a hopeful pass skidded past Oxford’s defence.  Matt Stock picked up the ball in the right hand channel and slotted past Robinson for his hat-trick.

Related  Oxford stumped by Tabs

As the weather deteriorated, so did the quality of football.  For the next twenty minutes torrential rain prevented any good passing from either side. Oxford replaced Niko de Walden and Cameron Knight with James Howell and Sam Hall.

With twenty minutes remaining, the rain relented and the two substitutes almost combined to score: Hall put Howell through but the shot was well saved by Dean.  Two minutes later the combination was more successful: Howell this time squaring to Alex Toogood who converted Oxford’s third equaliser of the afternoon.

An increasingly stretched match saw chances at both ends.  Howell, bringing the best out of Toogood, went close, as did Cambridge substitutes Matt Amos and Mark Baxter.  With three minutes left, an Alex Toogood header could have won the match, but produced a full length save.  It seemed as though the CB Fry Trophy would be decided by penalties for a second successive year.    

Agonisingly for Oxford, Cambridge scored with their next attack. Out of nowhere, Stock was through on goal, leaving the Oxford back four standing.  With characteristic composure, he slid the ball past Robinson for his, and Cambridge’s, fourth. Oxford pushed bravely for yet another equaliser: but Baxter’s cross was headed in by Amos, to seal Cambridge’s third successive Varsity win.