Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Rich’s Blog: City 2 Goes Top The Hard Way

I’ve never ever been top of a league before. It’s a strange feeling, but a good one.

Yes, I’m talking about City 2, who are currently top of the OKA second division (north) with three wins and a draw from our first four matches. Our results have been built on tough defence and grinding out results rather than pyrotechnics in the attacking department but, hey, we’re winning.

So things feel good, but it was very different three weeks ago. 

On 9 November, we fought back from four behind against an Abingdon 3 side with a smattering of first team and second team players to draw 7-7. The fightback was great, but I was still bitterly disappointed with the draw after I had scored a lesser-spotted-running-in-shot to put us 7-6 up with two minutes to go. 

Still, that defensive performance — as well as the 7-0 win against Oxford University in our first match — has been the basis of results since against the league’s top two.

On 16 November, we ground out a 7-6 win against Abingdon 2, although it could have easily gone the other way. We went 6-4 up with a cheeky straight-from-the-restart goal by Charlotte, and then proceeded to let them score two to make the score 6-6. Thankfully, Arge pulled us out of the fire with a fantastic long shot and, this time, there was no last minute concession.

We shouldn’t underestimate how much confidence that has given us. Abingdon 2 went through last season undefeated and have a strong side across the court, so they are certainly no pushovers. It shows how we have progressed from last season when we sometimes struggled to field a team!

And we followed that win on Sunday (23 November) with a 6-4 win against Didcot 2. Again, their team is full of players with at least a couple of years’ experience, so this was always going to be a tough one. Let’s not forget that they put 19 past City 3 a few weeks ago, so they are in a scoring groove. But we took a two-goal lead in the first half, kept up the pressure and never let go.

That’s not to say we did it the easy way. At half time, coach Alice said the first half was the best she’d seen us attack, so we promptly went out in the second half and, err, forgot everything we’d been doing right in the first half. Slapped wrists all round! Thankfully, strong collecting, especially by Mike, helped us to restrict their chances and squeeze through with another narrow win.

So, all in all, a good start for City 2 and nice to be top of the league with a third of the season gone. There’s still a lot we can do to improve our movement in attack. However, we have been doing a solid job of keeping the opposition out, and that should be a strong platform for this season.

- Rich Heap, web editor

Match Report: City Finally Succumb In Celtic Battle

Oxford City vs Cardiff Celts - 22.11.14
17-15 Loss

This was a very close game. The first half was spent trading one goal a piece, level on every change of ends. Matt showed us how to take long shots with two in the first half, while Gaz and Dave were building their goal tallies towards a hat trick a piece. We were 7-8 down at half time but felt we had the fitness to keep pressuring the shots and passes.

We initially took control in the second half. We got at least three unanswered goals and then kept a goal ahead. Dan 'the bullet' jumped the line for some nifty intercepts but also showed restraint as well! Unfortunately, about 15 minutes from the end, Gaz rolled his ankle and had to come off. Luckily, we had Super Sub Simon, and Frank gave us clear instructions to stay disciplined and keep our lead. Ruth rallied with a long shot and Alice followed with the much talked about but rarely seen shot from the side.

Sadly, with the fast scoring and intense pace we all let some of our play get a bit scrappy in the final five minutes. Some decisions did go against us but Cardiff Celts seized upon them and converted it into a two-goal win. Darn.

Despite the end result, the way we played and the quality of most of the game did feel like a victory. Frank spoke after about the potential we have as a team and this game shows that we are becoming a really competitive regional team. Huge improvement on previous regional seasons and we come away with the sense that, if we can all work on our areas of weakness and play to our strengths then the away leg should be ours.

So, in summary, it was a narrow loss to a good side.

Scorers: Gaz (3), Dave (3), Matt (3), Dan (2), Ruth (1), Alice (1), Jo (1), Claire (1)

MVP: Ruth, for marking her opponent with everything and masterfully defending her step back shooting. She also provided support for Gaz and Dave's hat tricks, and sunk a goal at a key time when our spirits needed lifting. Well done!

- Match report by Jo

Monday, 10 November 2014

Match Report: City Grab Nip-And-Tuck Cardiff Win

Oxford City vs Cardiff University - 08.11.14
18-15 Win

Cardiff started stronger and scored first but Frank kept us to plan and we came back, pulling level before half time. Both teams answered a goal conceded by scoring themselves, which gave a half-time score level at 9-9.

We started the second half on the ascendancy getting a couple quick goals. Uni fought back and the narrow City lead led to a very tense game.

Defended calls only seemed to apply to the shots we put up -- especially those Dave kept getting through the korf -- but we kept on running. Getting forward started to reward us with some balls quickly returning to attack, with Dan and Pete both getting some crucial intercepts. 

In the end, we took back control and took the victory! Jo finished off the match with a not-Frank-approved halfway line shot which, thankfully, went in.

Overall, the pace was fast and contact calls numerous. If the opposition could score penalties as beautifully as Pete then would have been in trouble. Our practice just before the match paid off: Alice put away a traditional free pass while Becca scored her own new version of the running free pass -- which involved not running at all and scoring a beautiful long shot. Dan shouted louder than ever (plus his usual hat trick) and Ruth did a brilliant job keeping a difficult girl in check. 

And our two subs also did sterling work: Charlotte used her speed to get space and had several very close shots, keeping up the pressure; while Rich provided fresh strength at the post limiting the Uni attacks. 

Scorers: Gaz (4), Becca (3), Pete (3), Dan (3), Dave Ewing (2), Alice (2), Jo (1)

MVP 1: Gaz for his return to top scorer. He worked hard and earned every goal.
We all want to see him smiling at the end of a match. Well deserved!

MVP 2 (it's a rollover!): Dave for an amazing début with Oxford City. Great attack and teamwork. Felt like you had been part of the team for years. Next time we'll remember a City shirt to play in!

- Match report by Jo

Match Reports: Two Very Different Uni Matches

First team match reports are sometimes like buses, especially when I’m in the middle of moving house, so here are two mini ones at once.

Oxford City 1 vs Oxford Uni 1 – 26.10.14
12-4 Win
Excellent team performance against a spirited Oxford Uni side. They had bags of pace, and lots of raw potential, but our higher experience levels came through. 
It was an excellent defensive display from City, with Uni only scoring one goal from open play, and that should have been disallowed for the most blatant football I’ve ever seen. With Dave W on baby duties, Niall replaced him in the starting eight and showed his defensive qualities well, intercepting lots of passes in his swashbuckling style. 
Scorers – Dan (4), Jo (2), Ruth (2), Gaz (1), Ev (1), Alice (1), Becca (1)
MVP - Jo

Oxford City 1 vs Southampton Uni 1 – 02.11.14
28-6 Loss
 We got taken to the cleaners here to be honest. Alex Bell demonstrated how to play at the post well, and shoot from distance, scoring 13 goals in an awesome individual performance.  Southampton are my tip for the OKA league title this year, and with two England internationals playing for them, they are going to be tough to beat. 
The plus point was that we improved massively in the second half, which was encouraging.  It’s always tough to come back when the opposition have scored something like 12 goals in the first ten minutes, so it’s a credit to the team that our heads didn’t drop. 
Sometimes you need to hold your hands up and congratulate the opposition for a great performance. And learn from playing against players that are a cut above the rest.
Scorers – Ruth (2), Dan (2), Alice (1), Gaz (1)
MVP – Dan (though I’m not sure how after the guy I was marking scored 13 goals!)

- Match reports by Dan

Monday, 27 October 2014

Match Report: Bristol Leave Us Blue (Da Ba Dee)

Oxford City vs Bristol City - 25.10.14
19 - 7 Loss

We played a blue match with a blue Bristol team.
Blue is the colour of all that we wore.
Blue was the floor and all wall was too.
Blue are the feelings when we look at that the score.
I'm blue da ba dee da ba die...

Now that's enough of that! The match didn't go quite as planned. My new crazy divisions are not going to be adopted in future and, on Thursday, Frank as threatened is going to run us ragged. 

But there were some positives. Easy ones to remember were our seven goals. Alice and Damien both got a runner and a long shot, showing their versatility as well as scoring skills. Dan and Pete intercepted several key passes brilliantly. Fi had at least one shot that should have been in but somehow didn't drop. Mike had a man mountain against him but was still strong under the post. Becca and Ruth were their usual quick and crafty selves. And it should have been one more but Alice scored a free pass that was bizarrely not counted due to opposition infringement. 

There were lots of moments we can be proud of from this game but we didn't quite come together as the confident and determined team we were against Gloucester. Even so, huge thanks to Frank for coaching and Damien for stepping in to play at short notice. Well done to Mike and Fi for fine regional débuts.

Scorers: Alice (2), Damien (2), Pete (1), Becca (1), Jo (1)

- Match report by Jo

Match Report: City 2 Start With A Win

Oxford City 2 v Oxford Uni 2 - 19.10.14
7-0 Win

Thanks to the whimsical League 2 schedule, the mighty City 2 had to wait until the depths of October to begin their 2014/15 campaign. They faced off on Sunday against a typical Uni 2 side: young, bouncy and enthusiastic, but inexperienced.

City 2 got off to a steady start, and goals from Jen, Charlotte and Simon saw City race into an early 3-0 lead. Arge should have scored several more, easily running past his defender on numerous occasions, but he sportingly chose to travel, drop the ball or forget to shoot, sparing the blushes of his opposite number. Things got a little hairy towards half time: a slight dip in concentration led to some loose City passing, and some Uni interceptions, but the students were unable to capitalise.

The second half saw a superlative defensive display from City 2, with Uni struggling to get shots up and never looking like scoring. Meanwhile, Charlotte got her shooting boots on and popped in a couple of lovely goals. Jim added a penalty, and Dan (coming on as emergency sub) selfishly scored too. The final score was a fine 7-0 victory to City 2. Whoop whoop!

MVP was Fi, who had a very strong game, consistently out-collecting her marker and setting up several goals. Also, big well done to Charlotte for her splendid hat-trick. And, in general, it was a great defensive display against a fast, intercept-y side who made things difficult for us.

MVP - Fi
Scorers - Charlotte (3), Dan (1), Jen (1), Jim (1), Simon (1)

- Match report by Alice

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Match Report: Awesomites Go Down Fighting

Oxford City 3 v Didcot 2 - 12.10.14
19-4 Loss

On Sunday a full squad of Awesomites faced off against an experienced Didcot team. I don't think they had a player on the pitch without a few years' local league experience under their belt so it was always going to be one of the team's toughest challenges this season. 

We went out there with a lot of energy, everyone gave it their all, and the team spirit was fantastic. We did concede a lot of goals, particularly running in shots, but Didcot were on shooting form and sometimes no matter how well you defend they just drop. I've a feeling a lot of lessons were learned the hard way this match, particularly in defence as our opposition pulled no punches and exploited every slight lapse in concentration. 

Didcot made us work hard for every pass and shot but work hard we did, and in return we created four goals (two from second half sub, Mr Rich H, continuing his long shooting form) and towards the end we were regularly putting some good moves together in attack and starting to find a rhythm. 

Becca 'Blaze' put in a great performance claiming the collect for her own, allowing her division to put up shots and also made some good moves herself toward the end, coming this close to scoring (also, great cookies). 

Shout out to Theo whose sheer determination got him his well-earned goal and Steve who did well all match to find acres of space and make shots that paid off. Pip has a bloody lip to prove her sterling efforts in defence, and Andy had to deal with some very tricky play. However he rose to the occasion and, despite that, did everything right and had a good all round performance. Michelle, Jo, Rich M & Mike (who did well despite learning some hard lessons from the strongest player in the match in my opinion) all put in great efforts to round out the team performance.

Overall, though, my player of the match is Laura who, in only her second game, showed how quickly she has picked up some of the finer aspects and made hard work for a much more experienced player all game. I could see her netball origins coming through to good effect! Collect, feed, defence, movement, she made things happen for the team with a well-rounded performance and one that bodes well for the future.   

The scoreline doesn't matter here. Let's learn from our mistakes, take all those positives into training, and work hard for the next one. Great efforts everybody!

MVP - Laura
Scorers - Rich H (2), Laura (1), Theo (1)

- Match report by Gaz

Match Report: Tough Times in Basingstoke

Basingstoke 1 vs Oxford City 1 - 11.10.1421-4 Loss

On Saturday half a dozen City players travelled to Basingstoke in a match that would count for the regional league and Oxfordshire League 1. 

We had not so much put all our eggs in one basket but had to use all our available eggs. This match was about principle as much as korfball and heading out we decided the only way to win was pull together as a team in the face of this difficult situation.

Historically, we have not done well against Basingstoke. I can't find an occasion on record where we have won against their first team and in February, when Oxford United played them, we lost by 14 goals with an over-brimming squad of 12.

Oxford roadworks and a newer venue meant that, as well as doing without a full eight and subs, we also did without a warm-up. There was to be plenty of running in the game so we would all get a significant workout but a single injury and the game would be over.

First half it became apparent why playing with six is not advisable. Stolid defending kept the Basingstoke goals down to a determined trickle. Alice got our first goal with a well-crafted running in shot and Jo then got in a cheeky looping ball from feed. The half ended 9-2.

Second half the non-shooters seemed to be changing constantly as the fine pressure Gaz and Dave were applying led numerous shots to fall short or bounce off. Ev and Ruth both had several shots that were tantalisingly close in their division's long controlled attacks. Dave very frequently won the collect despite being outnumbered on pitch. Alice scored a second carbon-copy runner and Gaz scored a goal that could only be described as epic. Both boys chasing him down as he dropped off to a significant distance for the shot (he has clearly been practising the big step back!). 

The defensive pairs from all our girls were excellent but long shots for Basingstoke started to go in more towards the end of the game plus their repetitive crossing moves got very tiresome. Final score was 21-4, which is a little worse than we wanted but the way we had pulled together and played for every ball was more important.

Unofficial MVP - I think we all deserve this one. If we can do this with six against last year's league winners just imagine how great we can be with eight or even the luxurious ten! Well done to all six for being there, and resisting the draw of the National Ploughing Championships happening just down the road.
Scorers - Alice (2), Gaz (1), Jo (1)

- Match report by Jo

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Match Report: City Wins Point In Tough Abingdon Test

Abingdon 1 vs Oxford City 1 - 05.10.14
11-9 Loss

The second City 1 game of the season was up against last year's OKA League 1 runners-up Abingdon 1. In two matches against them last year we lost twice, both times by four goals or more, so this match was a good opportunity to see how we matched up now.
While Dave E, Niall and Ev were absent, Claire W came into the starting eight to make her Oxford City debut in the OKA league and, fresh from his regional league exploits, Rich H stepped up at short notice from the 2nd team to continue his tradition of representing every single City squad.
The match started off at a fast pace, and we quickly moved into a three goal lead that included another cracker from Ruth, and a long shot from Rich. This shocked a confident and strong Abingdon side, who increased their efforts, focusing mainly on running in attempts from their quick players and Alex B's typically trickery in and around the post.

Despite some strong defence, Abingdon broke through our resistance to pull the score back to 4-4. Unfortunately, this led to a silly phase where we lost our way somewhat, giving away penalties to obvious tactics, and losing concentration occasionally.  We ended the half five goals behind after having a three-goal lead, which was massively disappointing.  
To be honest, this time last season that would be have been an insurmountable score difference to come back from, especially with the way we'd collapsed, but we genuinely felt (well, I did at least!) that we had a chance to pull it back in the second half, despite the strength of the opposition. Abingdon made it hard for us in the second half, and we were struggling to score -- but so were they. 

After trading a couple of goals each way (including another brilliant long shot from Rich) we then moved into the ascendancy, scoring three further goals un-answered to pull within two of Abingdon with 36 seconds left to play.  We then held on to secure a bonus point in defeat, which was well-deserved considering how we recovered from a very shaky period. It says a lot about the mental belief we've developed over last season and this summer.
One thing that was pleasing was the way we spread goals out throughout the team again, and Gaz continued to add provider to his existing mantle of goalscorer. I also thought Claire and Becca did well to keep the dangerous Alex F quiet.  

However, in this instance I really want to highlight the contribution that Rich in particular made. First, he sank two brilliant long shots that could grace any level of korfball, despite being marked by (and marking) a player of Alex B's 20 years' experience. Second, with a minute left of a long and tiring match, he sprinted after a shot and out-collected Alex in a collect he had no right to win, before setting Dan up with an easy goal straight from collect.  And third, ten seconds later he sprinted back and made a last-minute successful defence of an Alex B shot when the rest of us had switched off. Considering Alex's shot went in and was disallowed, those two interventions in the final minute of the game single-handedly won us a point, and you really can't ask any more of a player, especially when they are stepping up from the 2nd team. That's the difference that showing 100% commitment makes.  
Yes, it was a loss, but gaining that point felt like a mini victory. If we continue to play in this spirit then we'll we'll have a good chance.
Official MVP (these are named by the opposition BTW) - Rich
Scorers - Rich (2), Ruth (2), Dan (2), Alice (1), Gaz (1), Dave W (1)

- Match report by Dan.

Match Report: City Starts Regional Campaign With Win

Oxford City v Gloucester Lions - 04.10.14
16-6 Win

Last year, Oxford United was narrowly beaten by Gloucester at home. However, after the successes of Bristol tournament, Oxford City was looking to play hard and start this season's regional league campaign with a win. Frank had travelled even further than our opposition to coach this opening match -- and, due to traffic, arrived before them.

Posts were in place. The ref was ready. All that remained was to follow Frank's plan.

We started well, slowly we made our way to 3-0 up in tense first quarter. The rest of the half saw goals from Dan, Paul and Ruth. Gaz held his ground in feed and got pushed through to the ground at one point for his trouble. Despite the whiplash he got up and played on. Pete slotted away two penalties with ease and we ended the half 6-1 up.

At the start of the second half a Gloucester penalty had narrowed the gap to just four goals. Claire had come on and responded with Alice to get a quick two goals. Rich subbed on to his regional début and used his height to secure numerous collects. Becca used her pace as part of the excellent defence and we won the ball back several times as Gloucester tried to pass out of defence giving us extra time in attack. Gaz has some exceptionally near chances but his dancing behind the post, to pull his marker out the game, took priority.

Gloucester kept trying to attack, scoring the occasional goal, but Ruth's gravity-defying long shots dominated the end of the game. Full time saw City victorious by a massive 16-6. 

Thank you to Frank for the inspirational coaching. Special mention to Paul who had a great match against very difficult opposition but player of the match has to go to Ruth.

Scorers - Ruth (5), Alice (3), Claire (2), Dan (2), Pete (2), Paul (2)

- Match report by Jo

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Match Reports: City Prevails In Isis Double-Header

Oxford City 3 vs Isis 2 – 29.09.14
6-4 Win

“Team Awesome” got Oxford City off to a great start in the season with an excellent win against local rivals Isis, and featured club debuts from Theo and Laura that were great to see.  

The basis of the win was a great offensive display in the first half, followed by hard-working defensive shift in the second. Becca’s pre-match team talk and promise of team cake obviously did the trick! 

This was a really encouraging start by our third team, and what was especially impressive was the amount of movement and variety of attacks on display. All the things we’ve been practising in training were demonstrated in the match. Well done everyone – there was a very proud coach on the sidelines (aka Gaz)!

A special shout out goes to Theo, who not only made his debut for Oxford City, but also scored a great long shot in the first half, and then put on a sterling defensive effort in the second half when Isis brought on last year’s OKA player of the season against him. Considering Dan conceded five goals to him in the later City 1 team match, for Theo to only concede one was brilliant. I was also impressed with Becca’s captaincy and her nerves of steel when converting her penalty.

Official MVP – Becca “The Blaze” Bleeze
Scorers – Dan (2), Becca (1), Theo (1), Alice (1), Niall (1)
Oxford City 1 vs Isis 1 – 29.09.14
12-6 Win

With a large proportion of the squad still recovering from playing a lot of korfball at Bristol the day before, it was always going to be important to get off to a strong start before legs became tired later on. And we did, racing into a four goal lead quickly after Becca kicked off the scoring.  

The match continued in this vein, with City reaching the break seven goals ahead after a great variety of attacks. Gaz’s tactics were paying off, utilising the strengths of our squad versus the opposition. 

Things changed after the break, with sore legs tiring, Alice disappearing to be sick (well done Blaze for stepping in!) and we also perhaps relaxed too much after dominating the first half. That, coupled with increased energy & pressure from Isis, resulted in a number of sloppy passes and rushed attacks, and this is something we need to cut out in future matches.  

However, we continued to create chances and score at key times, and the final score was much more comfortable than it felt at times.  

Personal highlights were the way we had a goal threat throughout the team, and also the way Niall slotted in seamlessly when making his full first team debut when he replaced Dave W in the second half.

Official MVP – Niall
Scorers – Gaz (3), Alice (2), Becca (2), Dan (2), Dave W (1), Dave E (1), Jo (1)

- Match reports by Dan

City on Tour 2014: Bristol Thunder Indoor Tournament

Ten of us (plus one Abingdon loanee, thanks Matt!) headed off to the Bristol Thunder indoor tournament to face off against a number of high level teams, including national league teams.  

All clubs sent out strong squads for what was billed as a future high profile tournament, and it was a good challenge for us. We weren’t one of the seeded sides, but in short, we were awesome, coming 7th out of 13 after 6 30min games. Indeed, we were extremely unlucky to lose a match that would have put us into the play off for 5th/6th. 

Full results were:

10-2 Win vs Bristol Uni (great long shot by Rich!)
16-3 Win vs Bristol City  (featuring two long shots from Charlotte, and everyone chipping in)
7-6 Win vs Scratch (who had two international players)


Quarter-Finals - The morning’s brilliant results put us into a very tough quarter final against Bristol Thunder, who came out convincing winners, but we scored twice as many goals against them as we did in the final of the Bristol City tournament!

Play-Off 1 – 4-5 Loss vs Cardiff Celts.  After playing well in a tight game, and leading all the way through, we conceded two goals right at the end in what was the most gutting result of the day.  Still, it was a very promising display against a team that were seeded in the competition, and whom we will be matching up against in the regional league.

Play-Off 2 – 7-6 Win vs Cardiff Uni.  It was important to finish with a win and this was a great way to finish the day.  Cardiff Uni are another team we will be facing in the regional league, and we played really well, with Taissa scoring at towards the end to make victory safe.

To finish off the day (8 hours after our first match!), Alice played for Bearsted in the final of the competition, scoring an awesome long shot and setting up other goals in their tournament winning victory.  Well done Alice! 

All in all, a very successful day for Oxford City, with every single member of the squad scoring. Thanks to everyone that travelled down. 

Final scorers – Dan (13), Gaz (9), Becca (5), Claire (5), Jo (5), Alice (3), Charlotte (2), Matt (2), Taissa (1), Rich (1) 

- Dan Hibbs, chairman

Monday, 29 September 2014

Rich's Blog: My First Ever Weekend Of Sport

I took up korfball last year having played no sport for a decade. None. 

Getting out of bed early on a Saturday to spend most of my weekend running around was, frankly, ridiculous. But this weekend I did just that. My still-aching legs are proof that it wasn’t a dream.
On Saturday, I got up early and joined a happy band of City korfers on the trip to Bristol for the Bristol Thunder indoor tournament. However, no tiredness was in evidence as we won 10-2 in our first match against an energetic Bristol University side. We followed this with a 16-3 win against Bristol City 2 to top our group and secure some tough afternoon matches. 

I also shared glove tips with a girl who suffers similar finger troubles (see any of my other blog posts!). Honestly, this time next year everyone will be wearing them…

But even a pair of magic gloves wouldn’t have helped in our next match, against southwest regional champions Bristol Thunder and their team that includes several internationals. We managed to score two but were well beaten, to leave us looking at a best finish of 5th.

Sadly, that wasn’t to be as we suffered our most disappointing result of the day: a 5-4 loss to Cardiff Celts despite leading for most of the match. I know I learnt a big lesson: focus on the fundamentals and don’t try to rush things, especially when you’re in the lead.

We bounced back in our final match with a 7-6 win against Cardiff University, to finish 7th out of 14 overall, and headed home with aching bodies but heads high.

On Sunday, the bravest of us turned out at St Greg’s for the first weekend of the new OKA season for two matches against local rivals Isis. 

First, City 3 (aka ‘Team Awesome’) played Isis 2 and rushed into a three-goal lead, with a lead of 5-3 at half time, including a great debut goal from Theo.

The second half was more cagey with little ball-in-hoop action. I know I was feeling the effects of the Bristol tournament as my attacks could at best be called ‘glacial’. Even so, we kept calm, kept finding space, kept putting shots up — and kept missing them! But solid defence from Andy, Captain Blaze, Laura and Niall saw us to a 6-4 win.

And then City 1 played Isis 1. I know we won 12-6, but don’t know anything else about the match because I sloped off home to see my daughter. After a weekend of korfball, it was a relief to spend some time chasing around after something that isn’t purple and yellow.

- Rich Heap, web editor

Monday, 1 September 2014

Rich's Blog: Dragons Tournament Has Fired Me Up

Never let it be said that we at Oxford City are not intrepid. It is in this adventurous spirit that we made our way to our final outdoor tournament of the summer — just up the road, in Didcot.

Now, I must confess I’ve been feeling a bit down about my korfball in the last few weeks. This is partly because I aggravated one of my recurring finger injuries a couple of weeks ago; and partly because the prospect of stepping up to regional training is scary. Will I be able to hack it?

Thankfully, the Didcot Dragons tournament has gone some way to dispelling those doubts. We may not have rocked the Harwell Recreation Ground with our final position (I never found out), but it was a great chance for our newer players — me included — to get experience against strong opposition.

Here are the two main lessons I took from Didcot and my other two tournaments:

Players at higher level aren’t superhuman: International and regional players are usually taller or faster; definitely more experienced; and better at scoring than opponents I’m used to. That doesn’t mean they’re unplayable. Tournaments have helped shed some of this fear.

Get the right mindset: I don’t think of myself as sporty or competitive, and that’s probably one of my big problems. It turns out that I can be both if I want to be. My unusually angry and belligerent defensive showing against Bristol City was a highlight; and showed me the benefit of taking an irrational dislike to my opponent, at least while I’m on the pitch.

That doesn’t mean I think I’ve got this whole korfball thing sussed. I don’t. But, with effort in training in matches, it does give me the confidence that one day I might. And there are plenty of City matches to learn in this season, from League 2 to regional.

So after a tough few weeks, there’s only one way to greet the new season: bring it on!

Rich Heap, web editor

Monday, 4 August 2014

Rich's Blog: Oxford Tournament - A Genie's Story

It was a morning that made meteorologists of us all. While the rain hammered down we hunted for blue sky, discussed the wind direction, and felt dejected as the water breached our underwear. And we did all of this alongside 20 teams from the south and Midlands at the Oxford City 2014 summer tournament.

I must confess that I went into the day nervous. Partly, at the prospect of playing for City 1; but mainly at having to chaperone my collection of injuries through a full day.

Thankfully, I managed to set aside my first worry by scoring in our opening match, a 5-2 win versus Supernova. But as the rain got harder, so did our opponents. Our next two matches were a narrow loss against Gloucester Lions and a scrappy 0-0 against Southampton Spartans. We finished the morning with a 3-1 win against Abingdon 2, with me playing half the game at walking pace due to my tweaked hamstring — and to little detriment to the quality of my play.

After a quick lunch I carried on playing into the afternoon, despite the medical advice of most of my teammates. It seemed rude to stop now the sun had finally turned up.

And I’m glad I did as I got my second goal of the day in a 7-1 win against Oxford Uni; helped City 2 to win 3-1 against Supernova; and contributed a few assists throughout the day. I also learnt I need more practice at marking people who are taller than me.

We followed the korfball with a chilli-and-alcohol-fuelled fairy tales social where, to further ignore medical wisdom, I spent four hours dancing while dressed (or half-dressed?) as a genie. Which leads me on to a smattering of unofficial awards:

The Chessboxing Award for Brain and Brawn: Chessboxing is well-known for fusing the two contrasting disciplines of chess and boxing, and on Saturday we discovered something similar: korfematics. This is where you switch between playing korfball and working out complex mathematical calculations, to determine who is playing on which pitch and who the hell is refereeing. Only one winner: Taissa.

The “More Height, More Power” Award for Constructive Criticism: This goes to everyone who helped Jim on his return by reminding him of all those catchphrases he’s been barking from the sidelines. Ps. Great to see you back in action, Jim.

The Anton du Beke Award for Dance Commitment: Rich M brought the rhythm with dance moves based on korfball shots, dynamic stretches, and household chores. This climaxed with a dramatic ‘lift’ during What a Feeling from the the film Flashdance, appropriately-titled given that he ripped his shorts in the process. And who was his dance partner? Let’s just say the damage was done by a genie’s lamp.

Thanks to Taissa, Fi and Simon for a great day; to Mike for DJing from afar; and to everyone who came and made it a success despite the rain. See you again in 2015.

Rich Heap, web editor

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Rich's Blog: A Tale Of Four City Teams

Watch TV nowadays and it’s clear that everyone is on a ‘journey’.

From The X Factor to The Great British Bake Off, we’re surrounded by tales of people who overcome the odds to make an ignorable single or a nice pithivier. We strive, 
we prevail, and we end by blubbing with joy. This is how things work nowadays.

It is with these heartwarming tales in mind that I wanted to think about the ‘journey’ that City has been on since I joined a year ago — and how we plan to build on this.

There are two reasons I decided to end my decade-long stand-off with competitive sport. First, I was getting too unfit to run after my daughter; and second, I wanted to make some friends. Taking up korfball provided the perfect solution.

Back then, the final standings in Oxfordshire League 1 in 2012/13 showed City 1 in rock bottom, which was great. Clearly this was a club that would match my own lack of sporting prowess! As it turned out, City was going through a transition period and  things improved during the 2013/14 season.

City 1 ended up fourth in League 1, while City 2 came second in League 1. I’m also impressed with the number of new people who've come along and stuck around.

And the upshot is that we’re now looking to build on this.

In 2014/15, we’re going to be entering a City 3 team in League 2 alongside City 2, to provide game time for our growing number of players. There was a lot of feedback towards the end of last season that people wanted to play more, so we’ve entered this extra team to open up those opportunities.

We’ve also entered the regional league as Oxford City, to give more of our players the opportunity to step up to playing a higher standard of korfball. This is alongside entering City 1 in League 1. It’s going to be a busy season, but a fun one.

So what does this mean for you? 

Well, if you’re already a City player then you’ll be getting more last-minute texts and emails asking ‘Can you play?’ The correct response is: ‘Yes, of course. I'd love to!'

And, if you aren't currently a City player, it means that you really should be! We're on the lookout for more people keen to come along to training and get involved with the club. You'll have fun learning a new sport and make good friends in the process.

Let's make next season even better than this one. Blubbing with pride: optional.

Rich Heap, web editor

Friday, 27 June 2014

City on Tour 2014: Leicester and Bristol

We aren’t due to fire up the City tour bus again until our next summer tournament,  in Milton Keynes on 12th July. But, if you’re feeling starved of tourno action, fear not. Here are Dan’s round-ups (lightly edited!) of the first two legs of City’s summer tour:
Saturday 31st May: Leicester tournament
Our trip to Leicester was a great success. We had a number of players making their tournament debuts and our pre-season fitness coach Karl Sieber playing alongside us, highlighting in person the benefits of being able to leap like a salmon.  
The highlight was a 9-1 victory against Milton Keynes Lakers, probably one of our highest ever scorelines in a 20-minute game. Our next game was an 8-2 loss against a very strong national league team with three England internationals. A result that at first felt disappointing was put into perspective when they went on to win the tournament extremely convincingly, and beat a fellow national side in the semi finals 10-0. And Mike certainly left an impression on them!
We were scoring for fun at times, with Dan bagging five in one match and, if you counted the goals she scored while playing for Abingdon, Ruth probably did too. Special mention to Andy for scoring two great long shots during the tournament.
After our morning results, we entered the ‘middle eight’ section of the draw in the afternoon, and went on to achieve a very respectable 12th position. The Australian party in the evening was good fun, though Jo may have regretted her vegemite sandwich costume when she heard the lyric: “Give me a vegemite sandwich."
Saturday 14th July: Bristol tournament
City 1
A City 1 side with a mix of the very experienced (Karl) and very inexperienced (Niall), started the day with a flyer, winning 6-0 against Exeter. Next up were Horfield 2, and we came away with a 2-1 win in a tight match where our shots didn’t seem to quite drop. Next up were Cardiff Raptors, and another tight match was in store. The end score was 3-3, and a draw was probably a fair result on the balance of play.
A quick tactical switch later, with Niall and Dan pairing up, and Dave W switching into the other division with Karl, paid dividends, with a great 4-3 win against the hosts, Bristol City.  And our final match in the morning was against super-team Mauritians, which was made up of ex-Nottingham, England and Wales players. They were very talented, and we were cruelly denied in the last minute. The 3-4 loss left us second in our group, and put us through to the Top 8 for the afternoon.
The quarter final was against Manchester Warriors, who topped their group. Inspired by the poor refereeing in the previous game, we ran our socks off and defended well, with Niall in particular standing out with excellent interceptions.  Indeed, from what I could see in my division, as the tournament went on Niall and Fi in particular were getting stronger and stronger in both attack and defence, against quality opposition.
The semi-final was against our old foes Mauritians. Having run them so close in the group stage we were feeling confident, and put simply, we were awesome. In a game that summed up our all-action defence and rapidly improving attack, we ran out 5-1 winners thanks to a cheeky double from Niall, and goals from Dan (2) and Karl (1).
OXFORD CITY FINALISTS!!!!! We went on to lose to a truly excellent Bristol Thunder side, with all of their first team playing and a number of current internationals on show.  Yes, it was one-sided, but we didn’t care as we’d got to the final — and we got the biggest cheer of the day when we scored! City 1 player of the day was Niall, who had so many stand-out moments in defence, and it was awesome seeing him on the scoresheet so often.
City 2
City 2 found things tough going in the morning, losing all five of their matches despite playing well at times. The main problem was shots not quite dropping and coming up against high quality opposition in the shape of Bristol Thunder, Horfield 1 and hosts Bristol City. This meant we ended up in the bottom eight division in the afternoon.  
After a close 1-0 loss to start the afternoon, the result of the day was a close fought 3-2 win against Exeter Uni, a match that featured a great debut competitive goal for Becca (despite her head injury!). Despite finishing with a defeat to Horsham, the win against Exeter meant City 2 finished 18th out of 22 teams. City 2 player of the day was Mike, with his four goals in all competitions, and all-round enthusiasm. Though he did lose kudos for coming off worse (bleeding knee) in a one-on-one situation with a lady half his size.
Dan Hibbs, chairman

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Rich’s Blog: City Storms to Silver Against Thunder

The Oxford City summer roadshow continued on Saturday as we sent a couple of teams to the Bristol City tournament — and City 1 finished as runners up.

Personally, the day didn’t start well. I found a package of books that the postman had hidden on Friday, and so had stayed outside during the night's huge thunderstorm. Still, I packed a now-crinkly book and hit the road with Ruth and Dave W at 7.15am.

For City 2, things didn’t get much better during the morning as we spent the first half of the day losing. We were making space and getting into good positions, but our shooting was awry. We eventually finished 18th out of 22 after grinding out a 3-2 win against Exeter Uni in the middle of the afternoon.

Things were going much better for City 1, who made it to the final. We lost in the end to a tough Bristol Thunder side, but there’s no shame in coming second to a team that won the western regional league in 2013/14. Plus, it’s only polite to let a team win in their own city! But all in all it was a good day - helped by the balmy summer weather - and meant those of us in City 2 could join in the celebrations.

Of course, this wouldn’t be a tournament without a few unofficial awards...

The “How Many Fingers?” Award for Most Dramatic Head Injury: On most days, Dan’s collision with the post during the semi-final would have walked away with this award. In a suitable dazed fashion, of course. But even he couldn’t match the five-minute delay after Becca Bleeze not-so-gratefully received an elbow in the face.

The ‘Doctor, Doctor…’ Award for Services to Medicine: Becca had been on the floor for a few minutes but was now talking and sitting up. She was getting better. But this wasn’t enough for ‘Dr’ Mike, who gleefully unloaded half a bottle of water into her face. Medical benefit: none discernible.

The Cliff Richard Award for Summer Holiday Fashion: Dan has nominated me for next year’s fashion award for a ‘Brit abroad’ outfit that looked more summer holiday than sports tournament. You can copy this look with these items: floppy hat, sandals, loose-fitting linen shirt, not-rubbed-in suncream, Test Match on the radio, and a crinkly copy of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency.

If you’ve got any other award nominations then post them on our Facebook page. Thanks to everyone for a great tournament; and, personally, thanks to Gemma for lending me a sleeping bag and Ruth for driving me.

Next for the City tour bus: Milton Keynes. All together now: “We’re all going on a…”

Rich Heap, web editor

Monday, 2 June 2014

Rich's Blog: Sunshine, Shorts... And A Bit Of Sport

In the last week I’ve started inflicting my dazzlingly white legs on the unsuspecting public. That means two things: I have no fashion shame and… summer is here!

For us korfballers, the arrival of summer means tournament season. 

We kicked off our tour of the summer tournaments on Saturday in Leicester. I didn’t manage to get there as I’m on holiday in the Isle of Wight, where I’m resting up after our late-night friendly against Oxford Uni last week. Thanks to Uni for arranging, and helping me to reinforce my status as City’s most accident-prone player.

But anyway, summer tournaments…

Over the next few months we’ll be playing — and partying — in places including Bristol, Milton Keynes and Nottingham. We’ll also be hosting our own tournament on 2nd August, which will, of course, be the best!

Now, if you’re thinking of having a go at korfball then don’t let the phrase ‘tournament season’ put you off. Don’t be fooled into thinking it’s the most intense part of our year. It isn’t.

Our main competitive season runs from autumn until spring, and this is the time of year when we’re at our most relaxed. Yes, we’re getting ready for the 2014/15 season, but we’re also out enjoying the sunshine. Tournaments are a fun way for players new and old to learn a lot in a short time, and fit in some fun nights out.

So come along. There’s more info on our site, and a good intro to korfball went up a few days ago on the BBC Sport’s Get Inspired page. It says: “The sport is accessible to anyone, whether young or old, male or female, beginner or international athlete.”

On which note, if there are any international athletes who want to give korfball a try then City would love to see you. First four sessions free!

Just don’t think you’ll become our most accident-prone player. I won’t give that up without a fight. A fight in which I'll probably become concussed.

Rich Heap, web editor

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Rich's Blog: Awards Night (aka Sushi Gloves Win)

I never knew winning an award was so easy. Just turn up to training in arthritis gloves that look like the fish skin you get on sushi and — bingo! — instant recognition.

Yes, this is the Oxford City annual awards at the St Aldates Tavern on Friday. Thanks to all who came, and particularly to Dan and Ruth for helping us celebrate in style.

But what is this talk of gloves? Well, people got a rare glimpse of my hand flesh as I picked up the ‘Michael Jackson / serial killer award’ in recognition of the gloves I’ve been wearing to training sessions. I’ve been trying to find a way to train while allowing my four bruised fingers to heal, and I’ve settled on the combo of arthritis gloves padded with support tape.

You could say this is a quack remedy (it is!) that hasn’t been endorsed by a medical doctor with, y’know, qualifications (it hasn’t!). But they do seem to be helping, so I won’t take them off yet. If that means more richly-deserved mockery then so be it.

However, I do want to set one thing straight: I don’t plan to use them for serial killing, or any other serious crime. They’d be useless. They’re fingerless.

There were also awards given out on Friday for people who did stuff like playing well and scoring goals. So, without further ado, here are our 2014 winners…

Oxford City Legend - Jen Carter

Players' Player of the Year - Ruth Emm

Best 1st Team Female - Becca Brennan
Best 1st Team Male - Dan Hibbs

Best 2nd Team Female - Charlotte Rugg
Best 2nd Team Male - Simon Sharp

Most Improved Female - Ellie Courtney
Most Improved Male - Arge Rivera
Newcomer of the Year - Niall Sheekey

Services to OCKC Award - Dave Everett
Services to OCKC Award - Gaz Clarke

…and thanks to everyone for a great season. But I’ve got to dash: I’m off to plan my next fashion disaster. It’s never too early to think of the 2015 awards.