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 d├ębut 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