Goals from Julian Austin and Ezra Rubenstein were not enough to defeat the Tabs and in particular Richard Trotten, who proved the difference by scoring a hat trick and walking away with the Man of the Match award.
At a freezing cold Selhurst Park, the tension surrounding the fixture was clear in the frenetic pace of the opening minutes. Oxford’s Sam Donald started brightly, and it was his run that led to the first important moment of the game. An in-swinging corner from the Captain curled inside the near post, and had to be headed off the line to prevent the opening goal for the Blues.
The first 20 minutes was dominated by the Light Blues, as Oxford struggled to keep the ball and provide service for striker Peder Beck-Friis. However, against the run of play the Blues took the lead. Another Donald cross was met at the near post by Julian Austin, who produced a neat flicked header that nestled into the far corner.
Oxford were only ahead for a matter of minutes, as Cambridge hit back with Totten’s first of the evening. Playmaker Ben Tsuda found space between the midfield and the defender, and slid in a pass between Adam Fellows and Daniel Bassett with the intent of finding his striker. Originally it looked to have been overhit, only for winger Richard Totten to meet it near the byline and slot the ball home between keeper Thomas Heigh’s legs.
The Blues reacted well to the disappointment of being pegged back, and once again led just before half time through Ezra Rubenstein. The creator was Anthony Beddows, who typically won the ball in midfield to leave the Cambridge defence exposed. Oxford were clinical with the opportunity, Beddows shifting the ball wide to Rubenstein who cut inside before finding the bottom corner. Leading 2-1 at half-time, the Blues looked like they were in a fantastic position to be authoritative in the second half.
After the break, however, the favourites Cambridge began to show the form that had led them to the Midlands 1A division title. Dominating possession and controlling the play, the equaliser seemed inevitable and came again via the combination of Tsuba and Totten. Tsuba once again played the ball through the Oxford defence, putting Trotten one-on-one with the keeper. HIs first time finish tied the game and suddenly it was Cambridge who seemed likely to net the winner. The lead for the Tabs came once again through Trotten, but this time with a solo effort good enough to win any match. Cutting in from the right wing, he curled the ball from the edge of the area, giving keeper Haigh no chance.
With just 15 minutes left, Firman, Grimer and Healey were introduced in an attempt to get back on level terms. In truth few chances were created in the second half by the Blues, with their best opportunity coming from Firman’s shot after a lay off by Austin.
Despite the disappointment of a narrow Varsity defeat, the Blues can look back at this season fondly having won the Midlands Division 2A title and defeated Brookes in the local Varsity game. They came just short of having a perfect year, but will look to avenge this defeat as preparations begin for Varsity 2014.