Aston University 1
Oxford Centaurs 1
The Centaurs travelled to a wet and windy sports ground in Walsall on Wednesday, to entertain Aston University 1sts. Having been unfortunate the week before against Birmingham City University, the squad had a point to prove and looked determined during the week’s training. With the conditions – the grass possibly not having been cut this season (or ever?) – being far from ideal, the game started in a scrappy manner. Due to forgetting their own, The Centaurs sported a retro Aston away strip that was small and tight enough to have conceivably been borrowed from an under-14 side. Oxford looked the more comfortable on the ball in the early stages, though long balls forward from Aston (think Pulis’ Stoke and we’re not far off) tested The Centaurs’ defence.
With half-chances and little to report, the game settled until near the half hour mark, when the Aston striker beat the offside trap to run through and square for his strike-partner, who had a simple finish.
A reaction followed from Oxford, with strong work down the right flank from Roly Carter and Hayden Cooke leading to a good save by the Aston keeper from a Fred Howell header. The Centaurs were restricted to snap-shots for the remainder of the half, as the wind saw many attempted through-balls skip through to the opposition goalkeeper. 1-0 to Aston 1sts at half-time.
In the second period the game opened up, as the boggy pitch took its toll upon tiring legs. However it was Oxford who started the stronger, looking composed on the ball and starting to play the attractive passing brand of football that new coaches Jon Collins and Jed Davies encourage. Crosses from either flank caused trouble in the Aston box – Oxford pressing and getting closer to the equaliser. A period of 20 minutes saw Aston reciprocate this pressure; however solid defending from centre-backs Hugo Sever and Fred Ellis ensured that little threatened the Oxford goal. The Aston side began to get frustrated with their search for a second goal and tackles started to fly in. Their centre-midfielder, who didn’t crack a single smile all game, picked up a yellow card for one of many fouls on The Centaurs’ midfield trio. Oxford once again began to press and with 15 minutes remaining found a break-through. A long throw from Nathan Riddell wasn’t dealt with by the Aston defence, and Fred Howell helped himself to a second goal in two games – passing in from close range.
This goal gave The Centaurs a new drive, and with three points in their sights, chances came thick and fast. A scrap in the box led to Oxford’s best chance, but was narrowly missed as both teams searched for the elusive winner. In the final minutes, with The Centaurs pushing high up the field, an Aston attacker went through one-on-one with Oxford keeper Jeremy Ogunleye – who responded with a fantastic save that meant that The Centaurs left with a 1-1 draw and a hard-earned point.
In a game in which Oxford were unlucky not to pick up all three points, there was plenty to be positive about as the squad continues to develop and progress through the season. Post-match, the team were treated to cold showers to wash off the mud that their under-14s shorts didn’t quite protect from, before heading back to Oxford ready to build upon what was an encouraging performance and a solid point.