The Blues pulled out a convincing 3-1 win against Cambridge this Wednesday, proving their strength as a side and reiterating once again to Cambridge that they still have plenty of work to do if they want to compete with Oxford at a top level.
The win awards the Blues another 3 points in the BUCS South Premier Division, and extends their victorious head-to-head record against Cambridge. Having only been promoted this year to the top league in which Oxford sits comfortably, Cambridge are clearly struggling to find their groove and as of yet have only been granted one lucky win this season, against currently bottom of the league Cardiff University.
In the early minutes of the game however, it looked to be Cambridge that had the advantage, immediately putting Oxford under pressure. Despite two good deflections by goalie Jess Hughes, Cambridge put away a goal on the third punch for a 1-0 lead.
Oxford were determined not to be disheartened so early in the game, and, fuelled by their thirst for a win, stepped up their level of play. Quick passing and moving around the Cambridge defence in the D resulted in a solid goal scored by Helen Macadam and brought the two teams to level pegging.
From this point the fight was really on, with the momentum swinging in both teams’ direction, each side trying their hardest to string together a series of advancing moves in attack. Cambridge came up with a quick reply and were awarded a short corner, but sturdy defence, in particular by Aynsley Bruce, saw Oxford block their opponent’s attempt. Oxford retaliated with a short corner of its own, but failed to capitalise, sending the ball wide. Play continued to move up and down the pitch, with both teams pushing each other but neither managing to have success in finishing. An attack on goal by Cambridge saw goalie Hughes diving dramatically across her territory, illustrating her speedy reactions and agility as a player, which were crucial for a number of excellent saves that maintained the team’s peace-of-mind. Determined drives and persistence by Oxford’s front line clearly showed their hunger for another goal, but unsettling jabs by the Cambridge defence sufficed to hold off any real threats of attack. What looked to be a deserved reward for Oxford’s persistence following a firm strike from yet another short corner by captain Charlotte Jackson resulted in a harshly disallowed goal. The end of the first half saw a crucial rescue of the ball by Alice Cook during a driving Cambridge attack on goal, maintaining the score at an even 1-1 and preventing what could have been a powerful Cambridge counterpunch.
Resuming after halftime, it quickly became apparent that both teams had realized that their earlier performances were sub-par and were hungry to launch new and successful attacks against each other. There was a noticeable improvement in player positioning across the pitch, passes were firmer and sent with meaning. Within four minutes top-scorer Beth Wild exhibited her worth and flair as a forward, delivering an arrowed ball into the top left-hand corner of the goal, catching the Cambridge goalie by surprise and resulting in a failed attempt to deflect the ball away, making the score 2-1 Oxford.
Coach John Shaw was quick to remind the girls of the consequences of a goal against a strong side in their division and stressed the importance in remaining focussed, as any momentary lapse in concentration could easily result in a quick Cambridge-riposte and Oxford conceding. The Blues stayed solid, however, and continued to find their form. Having lost a number of experienced players through yearly turnover they have had to work hard early in their season in order to build up their side again. A strong 1-1 draw against Bath Women’s 1st last week and a 4-1 win earlier in the season away against Cambridge provided the team with plenty of confidence for today’s match. Their additions from last year’s 2nd team and new talent from the pool of Freshers began to appear integrated in the general workings of the team, and as the second half progressed Oxford looked to be painting firm strokes of victory across the pitch.
A quick break by Helen Macadam for Cambridge exhibited her speed and swiftness on the ball with a good drive down the left wing followed by a strike that curved just wide, hitting the side of the goal box. Oxford were clearly dominating, however, and continued to put Cambridge under pressure, whose defence looked like it was starting to crumble. Were it not for a lack of composure in the final third of the pitch, Oxford could have capitalized on a number of opportunities in the D. An example of just how good a team they can be, and their potential for the rest of the season, came following excellent working of the ball from a free hit to award the Blues with a short corner. A good link up that involved pulling the ball out to the left, five yards out of the D, confused the Cambridge defence, and a simple ball fed across to Beth Wild, perfectly positioned at the top of the D only needed her quick control and strike on target to give Oxford their third goal and Beth’s second of the match.
As the match neared an end, the Blues did not lag, and instead fought to secure the win over their rivals. Strong, gritty play by Natalya Kennedy around the top left of the D showed a great tousle for possession and awarded the side with yet another short corner. With the clock ticking, the shouts of encouragement from Coach Shaw fuelled the girls to make the last ball count, but the whistle was blown and the match came to an end before they were able to deliver a final punch to the Cambridge side.