New College grabbed an important away victory against a flagging Oriel side, thanks to a perfect blend of persistence and patience. Oriel fought hard throughout, but could not match some decent play with goals, while New, having struggled to create through much of the game, scored three late goals to continue their excellent start of the season.
The highly physical encounter could well have gone either way, with both teams struggling to create the final ball until late on. It was in fact Oriel who dominated the opening exchanges, getting out of the traps first and looking to test goalkeeper Alex Khosla at any opportunity.
Their first big chance came inside the first ten minutes, when a well delivered free kick just outside the area was headed onto the bar by skipper Jonty Warner. Oriel looked to have possession under control and a flowing passing game, yet lacked any kind of killer ball to supply strikers Webb and Hoare with ammunition, which eventually proved to be the story of the game for the side floundering at the wrong end of the table.
Yet New College were not prepared to lose their grip at the top without a fight, and a few big challenges soon turned the heat up. Howell, a constant thorn in the side of the Oriel defence, began popping up left right and centre, looking to latch onto any through-balls carved out by the New midfield, although they were merely frustrated by the strong Oriel offside trap as the first half was played out to a pacy finish.
In the Oriel camp, Warner’s instructions were clear: keeping the ball on the ground in good conditions would lead to solid chances, whereas the tried and tested method of long-balls to Webb would not. He soon got his wish when the midfield began working the ball around the pitch at a steady rhythm, with little reply from New. Harry Hoare pulled his markers wide and opened up gaps and chances which gave American ‘keeper Sam Evans something to think about. However, it’s a mystery where his mind disappeared to in the 70th minute, when two incredibly weak goal kicks gave Gibbon and then Hoare clear cut chances to put Oriel ahead, which were ultimately wasted.
This stroke of luck seemed to spur league leaders New into action and almost instantly they replied with the breakthrough. Scrappy play by the Oriel defence left Robin Cantwell to sweep the loose ball just ahead of Howell, who caressed the ball past the onrushing Khosla with the deftest of finishes on 75. It had been a frustrating wait for the goal, and, as if at a bus stop, two more soon followed. Captains Painton and Warner had marshalled their teams well in an aggressive game, yet ultimately one had to prevail. Painton was released down the left wing and slid in a tantalising cross that was diverted into the Oriel goal by leader Warner himself. Although Oriel had worked tirelessly all game, heads dropped and the third goal was straightforward. A late corner just wasn’t dealt with, allowing Tommy Stadlen to open his account for the college from 5 yards out.
Despite Hoare hitting the bar with a volley that could – and perhaps should – have been put in the back of the net, the crushed yet unfortunate Oriel side had a sloppy end to the game, the scoreline of which somewhat flattered New. The game proved to be a lesson in converting chances when on top, and New showed why their ability to do just that has seen them storm to the top of the table approaching the halfway point in the season.