A slow build-up meant that the start of this week’s match against Cardiff Met was a cagey affair, with both teams sitting deep, determined to give nothing away. The Blues managed to open the scoring through Dave Clarke, who took advantage of a rebound off Cardiff’s keeper and duly converted home.
Despite the goal unsettling Cardiff Met for a while, they soon bounced back with one of their own, a well taken deflection from a short corner, clearly a much practiced set-piece routine taken straight from the training ground that proved clinically effective, sending the Blues into the half-time break with a level score line.
The second half saw both teams come out playing much more aggressive and entertaining hockey, opening up the game and allowing more chances. Oxford took full advantage of this new style of play, piling the pressure onto Cardiff Met. The pressure soon paid off with a high-quality finish from Blues captain Alex Copestake who showed his flair with a one touch lob straight over the keeper’s head, putting the Blues 2-1 up in scintillating fashion.
The Blues now put their stamp on the game, not content with sitting back and defending their one goal lead, they played a high press, asking some serious questions of the Cardiff side. The tactic was rewarded when Sam Greenbank stole possession before unselfishly offloading the ball to Copestake who again showed his eye for goal with a clever finish on the reverse.
With the Blues now sitting comfortably at 3-1 up, concentration levels started to drop, and in the highest BUCS division, teams get punished for this. Cardiff Met handed out the punishment in the form of two counter-attacking goals, the speed of which caught Oxford on the back foot as their defence struggled to react.
After Cardiff’s spate of attacking play the Blues were looking like coming away with a single point from a match they had largely dominated. Enter stage Alex Copestake, who once again led by example, scoring Oxford’s fourth and claiming a hat-trick for himself.
A tense finish to the game saw the Blues continue to fend off efforts from Cardiff, with big saves from the keeper and Will Thompson embodying the spirit of the squad with his excellent running down of short corners.
After these uncertain stages of play, Oxford managed to close the game out well, keeping possession and showing some real professionalism to stop any potential danger from Cardiff Met, securing victory with a 4-3 result which puts them in second place ahead of their top-of-the-table clash with Exeter on Wednesday.
Captain and hat-trick hero Alex Copestake told Cherwell: “It was a good team performance, we showed a lot of character to get the win after Cardiff had come back from 3-1 down.
“On a personal level it’s always nice to score, but the main thing is that we’re connecting well as a forward unit and looking very dangerous when we break quickly.
“It bodes well for our next BUCS game at Iffley on Wednesday, where we have the chance to go top of the table if we beat Exeter.”