Blues still in the chase for BUSA league

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by Paul Rainford – Blues football CaptainThe situation is no longer quite so simple. The 1-1 draw against Nottingham on Wednesday, in conjunction with Worcester University’s victory against Warwick, ensures that Worcester are now in pole position, requiring only a victory next week against bottom of the table Northampton to be crowned BUSA midlands champions. In isolation the result on Wednesday was highly creditable and once again we displayed an abundance of sprit and dedication that will doubtlessly pay dividends in the long run. Nottingham are a very well organised outfit, with no shortage of technical ability or physical presence. However in terms of the wider picture, and our BUSA league campaign in particular, this was undoubtedly a set back as it now means that we are reliant on favourable results elsewhere if we are to climb back to the top of the league. And yet I am compelled to emphasise the fact that we have fought too hard and for too long to simply concede defeat here and now; Worcester will find that there are different pressures to deal with when you are the team being chased, rather than the team doing the chasing and it will be interesting to see how they adapt, especially in the knowledge that their final game of the season will be against us at Iffley Road. The game against Nottingham was quite a strange affair in itself. Suspicions were raised when the match was moved from the traditional first team pitch to the undoubtedly inferior second team facilities. I have a strong conviction that this was a deliberate ploy to stunt our superior passing game and favour the deployment of overtly physical and direct tactics. One of the greatest obstacles that we, as an Oxford University representative side, have to overcome is the perception that we are in some way soft and can be intimidated and bullied into submission. It is true that we (fortunately) lack some of the nastier and more ungentlemanly tendencies of some of our opponents but we certainly possess more than enough physicality to compete with all opponents under all conditions. Such was the case against Nottingham and we took an early lead when Alex Toogood expertly placed a header into the far corner of the goal with less than twenty minutes gone. This was a lead that we held until the final ten minutes of the match when, after failing to clear the ball from a wide position, a Nottingham midfielder broke free into our box and placed a low drive just out of Nik Baker’s reach into the right hand corner of the goal. It was a bitter blow coming so late on in the game but in truth we should have been coasting by this stage, having missed several glorious chances to increase our lead and destroy any Nottingham hopes of a comeback. The lack of sharpness and the break up in momentum caused by the enforced break over Christmas certainly hindered certain aspects of our play but we shouldn’t seek to make any excuses and we must work harder to raise our level of quality if we are to keep up the pressure on Worcester next week.

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