Another week, another Futsal double-header down at the Acer Nethercott Hall at Iffley. This time, it was Staffordshire University who provided the test for Oxford’s two fledgling teams.
The Dark Blues were looking to follow up wins for both the Men’s and Women’s teams against Oxford Brookes two weeks ago, with two more impressive performances here.
Staffs were sure to provide a stern test. Their men’s team had come top of the Midlands 3A division and were the 2017 Midlands BUCS Cup Champions, while their women had secured a very respectable mid-table finish in the Midlands 2A Division this season.
The women’s game got off to an ominous start, as Staffordshire raced into a two-goal lead within the first minute, much to the delight of the visiting fans. It was clear that Oxford were not prepared for the Staffs’ tactics of long balls to their attacking player.
However this did not faze Oxford in the slightest and they quickly got themselves back in the game. The Dark Blues soon settled into the game and took control, holding the ball well and dominating possession. Some clever footwork and clinical finishing ensured that Oxford not only drew level, but by half-time were 4-2 up.
In the second half, Oxford deployed new defensive tactics to try and cut out any luck the Staffordshire side would have. Staffordshire’s tactics were to send long, high balls to their striker, who would then attempt to flick the ball on into the net. However, now Oxford’s defenders kept tight on their attacker, cutting out any balls she was hoping to receive and denying the Staffs from having many shots. This move from Oxford seemed to frustrate the Staffordshire attacker, and she became more physical, meaning that both she and Oxford’s defender gave away fouls in their battle for dominance.
In the other half of the pitch, Oxford’s attack followed a similar pattern as in the first half, with the home side intelligently keeping the ball and waiting for the right moment to attack. Meanwhile, the visiting side were evidently tiring and struggled to keep up with the fast pace of the game. The result was four more goals, whilst Staffs also managed to score two more – they were also very unlucky with a superb shot from distance which rattled the crossbar of the Oxford goal.
Oxford closed out on a 9-4 win, to secure a brilliant second successive win against a well-established futsal team. This victory over a secure Midlands 2A side has given Oxford high hopes of promotion for next season as, because they are a new team, they will only be entering in the Midlands 3A league.
The pressure was now on for the Men’s team, who would be hoping to match those exploits. Confidence was high following the hard-fought win against Brookes, and the introduction of a couple of new faces to the squad.
From the first whistle, Oxford were superior both technically and tactically. It was clear that the Futsal-specific training over the past two weeks had vastly improved the players, who kept a very solid shape and transitioned well from defence to attack. Oxford were two up at half time, but it was very telling that the stand-out player on the pitch was the Staffs goalkeeper.
Futsal is a game of two 20-minute halves, where momentum is key and multiple goals can be scored each minute. Going into the second half at just two goals up meant that Oxford were keen to press home their advantage. Oxford were able to score two further goals without response in the second half, although Staffs were very unlucky not to get at least one, with a combination of brilliant goalkeeping and the post somehow keeping out an unfortunate Staffs striker. However, to keep a clean sheet in a Futsal game is extremely rare; to do so in just your second game as a team against a far more experienced side is rarer still.
Oxford and Futsal is starting to look like a very good match. Four games, four convincing wins. Both the Men’s and the Women’s Blues look in very good shape for the start of next season in the BUCS leagues.The squads for next season are shaping up nicely, although there are still spaces available for those who are interested in representing the university in one of the fastest-growing sports in the world. Whoever lines up in dark blue come October, looks to stand a very good chance of adding to the sporting success of this university.