Makeshift Blues hit for four

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Amateur Football Association put Oxford to the sword in pre-season friendly BLUES FOOTBALL Oxford 0 Amateur Football Association 4 An experimental Blues side, missing several key players, was well beaten by a fit and combative AFA side in the traditional curtain raiser to the new football season. New captain Arran Yentob saw his charges respond positively to a first-minute goal before spending the last hour on the rack, thanking goalkeeper Alexander Hill for a series of outstanding saves to keep the scoreline down. Ahead of the big BUSA kick-off against East Anglia, this was a useful workout for a team that comprised several players who will be looking to establish themselves in the OUFC setup. The match had barely kicked off when AFA striker Neil Hurst ran from what appeared to be an offside position to drill home the opener from eighteen yards. The Blues responded with some bright and confident approach play, and were almost rewarded when Dan Walbole burst clear, only to be denied by an excellent one-handed save. Both midfields closed space down well as the game tightened up, but the visitors were to change the course of proceedings in the twenty-seventh minute when Colin Hawkins beat Hill to the ball and finished from close range. The hosts’ confidence visibly drained, with the AFA’s Jack Costello starting to pull the strings for the London-based representative side, and the Hurst-Hawkins axis repeatedly causing havoc in a makeshift Oxford defence. The latter miscued a lob over Hill when well placed, and the Blues’ shot-stopper thwarted him with two point-blank saves in the space of fifteen seconds as half-time loomed. Hopes that the home side might effect a comeback were dashed by another early blow, as Hurst nodded home a right-wing corner only forty seconds after the restart. Hill then had to recover smartly to collect his own fumble from a Concannon drive, as his team-mates saw themselves repeatedly forced back by opponents whose extra fitness levels were becoming increasingly evident. Controversy again reared its head in the 57th minute as Hawkins’ looped header over Hill appeared to cross the line after bouncing down from the crossbar, but the referee’s assistant was well-placed to wave play on. The visitors’ striker was to claim his second ten minutes later, though, stabbing home after a corner was hooked back into the six-yard box. Osman Akkaya whipped a shot into the side netting for the Blues, but at the other end Costello saw a thirty-five yard effort narrowly miss the target and a driven free-kick fisted over by Hill. The home custodian completed his afternoon’s work with an acrobatic parry from Steve Hair’s hooked shot, and fine low saves from Gillard and Sonne.ARCHIVE: 1st Week MT2003

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