Oxford University Women’s Football Club achieved a rare and challenging feat on Wednesday as they toppled Bedford to become winners of the nationwide BUCS Trophy Cup.
Their long journey to the final began with a visit to London to play St Mary’s College. After two consecutive seasons of being knocked out in the first round of the BUCS cup, the Blues were understandably nervous. Their determination to break previous cup tradition could be seen from the start. They went 1-0 up within the first 10 seconds of the game, going on to win 9-1 with goals from Rosie Maclachlan, Amanda Stellato, two from Sarah Rouse and Roberta Meo and a hat-trick from Jane Rudderham.
The Blues next challenge was to defeat Worcester, to whom they had already lost twice in the regular season. After a well fought 90 minutes from both sides, the game was taken to extra time. Despite some thrilling near misses by both teams, the game went down to penalties, which Oxford won. This allowed them to advance into the quarter finals to take on Essex.
The Blues were slow off the mark, and Essex capitalised on this by taking the lead. Oxford responded through Roni Yadlin’s long range right foot shot, levelling the score in the second half. The referee then awarded Essex a penalty which was confidently slotted home and once again Oxford fell behind. Oxford’s Jean Gordon left it until the 85th minute to loft a ball from the corner flag over the Essex keeper and into the top corner of the goal.
Once again the game was forced into extra time. Oxford continued to battle hard throughout the extra half hour with Amanda Stellato leading by example, rugby tackling an Exeter defender in her own box in a valiant attempt to regain lost possession. The Blues never-say-die attitude was eventually rewarded with another goal from Jean Gordon which carried them into the semi-final.
The ladies’ penultimate semi-final match saw them face Exeter. Oxford dominated most of the play but had to remain wary of Exeter’s rapid and skilful counter-attacks. Winger Roni Yadlin once again hit the back of the net to put Oxford in front with 20 minutes to go, and captain Lucie Bowden drove home a header in the dying minutes of the game to secure her team’s place in the final of the BUCS Trophy Cup, something which no Oxford University Women’s team has achieved in living memory.
The coach ride to Sheffield Academy, where the final was held, was electric as the squad became steadily more excited about the match ahead. The ladies were up against Bedford, who they had met in the league during the season. With each team having won once, everyone involved knew that it was shaping up to be a close and well-contested final.
Bedford took an early lead following a blistering run from the Bedford centre forward and Oxford were suddenly faced with a mountain to climb. Nevertheless, the Blues’ persistence eventually paid off. Oxford’s woman-of-the-match, Amy Massey, threaded a ball between two Bedford defenders for winger Emily Wendt to powerfully shoot past the Bedford goalkeeper to draw Oxford level just before half time.
After a highly physical second half, Oxford’s Lucie Bowden was presented with a free kick in a very dangerous position and, letting her she-wolf out the closet, curled in a beautiful free kick which hit the crossbar and ricocheted back off the Bedford keeper to sneak over the line. This gave Oxford the lead with 15 minutes to go. The ladies had to dig deep as Bedford mounted attack after attack in the final stages of the game, flooding Oxford’s penalty area. Three cracking acrobatic saves by goalkeeper (Oxford’s other woman-of-the-match), Rachel Aldred, kept Oxford’s lead safe and the final whistle blew.
The players’ exhaustion vanished as they ran to each other to celebrate ending their season by becoming national champions!