Following a long coach ride departing from the sunny skies and blue gates of Trinity college, the football team and its loyal band of travelling fans arrived under looming dark clouds in Cambridge, sizing up the truly massive St John’s college Cambridge sports grounds, the stage upon which the theatre of football would take place.
With the Cambridge team, sporting oddly oxford blue-ish bibs, made their way to the pitch, the ref blew his whistle kicking off the game. The Oxford support couldn’t be louder, the Cambridge side-line support lacked lustre. This became a trend, blue bibs donned by the Cambridge crew looked inferior to the coordinated custom black, white and gold jerseys worn by Oxford’s ACS team. Cardboard signs and chants littered across the Oxford supporters, with an atmosphere rivalling Anfield. Cambridge were more like London stadium-esque.
Still, the home team managed to put a goal in the back of the net first. The Oxford crowd and players stunned, despite their shabby appearance and lack of fan support, the Cambridge ACS seemed a challenge. One goal down but much of the first half still to play, there was still no panic from the away side, just determination, within the next five minutes Oxford’s team began to gel and gain more and more possession.
For this they gained their two rewards with Oxford netting an equaliser and then putting themselves ahead before the half time whistle. By this time a steady Cambridge support began to develop, with the home side support becoming larger. Unfortunately in the time in which the Cambridge support streamed in, the Oxford side had begun to play more confidently and fluidly as the Cambridge side began to fall apart. Half time was a welcome pause for them to refocus their game plan and make some much needed substitutions.
As the whistle blew and the second half kicked off, fortune fled the Cambridge side, quickly replaced with misery. It seemed that the Oxford side, who were already dominant by the end of the 1st half, had decided to enter second gear. Rain began to pour down on the sports ground, and as umbrellas lifted high, it was clear the prospects for the Cambridge side fell low. Three consecutive Oxford goals, with no Cambridge attack in this period indicated the size of their woes, the worst of these being a penalty which reflected the unconsolidated defence Cambridge had to offer.
With 10 minutes to go and 6 consecutive goals conceded by the Cambridge side, times were looking rough for Cam ACS, playing to see the game out, knowing that while conceding 6 was humiliating, 7 would be atrocious. Yet even this task was made difficult by the skills of the Oxford ACS players. Cam ACS were in serious trouble, lacking the ability to make more than two passes before they found themselves dispossessed, tackled or turning over the ball unintentionally, as this point the seventh goal looked inevitable
But in the spirit of Cambridge, those noisy neighbours couldn’t keep it down. After a match of outstanding saves, the Oxford goalie made a mistake, to which the Cambridge side, deprived of chances throughout the game, did not hesitate to maximise putting it at the back of the net. Incredible! Momentum swung. cheers erupted from Cambridge support, even if this goal was going to be consolation only. But a minute later, a swift Cambridge attack lead to another goal! Where was this side hiding?
With two minutes to go, was there actually a chance Cambridge could turn it around? Four goals in deficit and around 2 minutes to play, surely it couldn’t be possible right?
Before you could ask, Cambridge had another! The Cambridge support roared seeing their side outplay the other The formerly resigned Cambridge side were on fire and Oxford with a five-goal lead cut to two looked almost vulnerable. The dominant Oxford ACS had disappeared, replaced with one searching for a full-time whistle. 3 goals in five minutes was not what anyone had predicted.
Well…when the ruckus of celebration had died down, the sight of the linesman waving his flag furiously called time on the Cambridge celebration and ultimately the game, as a discussion between linesman and referee while the clock ticked on, led to the goal being disallowed and the full-time whistle ever closer. With a final kick, the game saw its close with the away side storming for glory towards their supporters.
In a game in which the Cambridge side saw bursts of greatness at the very start and end, it was unquestionably Oxford ACS’s deserved victory. Once the full-time whistle blew, in the midst of disappointment and jubilation, we are still united in the pride of having an ACS in both Oxford and Cambridge
Image credit: Zoe Abereoje