Varsity Football 2014: Live Blog

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17.07 There it is then, the Tabs win three on the bounce. They were deserved winners last year after a thrilling contest but this year was slightly different. Oxford will feel they had the chances to win the game while Farmer was untested in goal. Neither side really did enough to win the game outright after 90, and from about 60 minutes onwards penalties always looked likely. Some fine penalty taking from Cambridge it must be said, hitting the corners with every effort, can’t apportion any blame on Farmer for that. A few mentions for some stand-out performances. Ben May was excellent at the back with a couple of crucial last-ditch interventions. Reminiscent of JT in his pomp. Rubenstein and Fletcher moved the ball well at times in midfield whilst Beck-Friis caused problems for the Cambridge defence with his power up front. Official Man of the Match goes to Mike Moneke for an ox-like performance at the heart of the Dark Blues’ defence. Well played sir, unlucky to be on the losing side. The stadium announcer is having a mare as Cambridge come up to collect the trophy he congratulates “the victorious Oxford side”. Alright don’t rub it in mate. It’s a clean sweep for the Tabs having won all the Varsity Football matches as ‘We Are The Champions’ rings out around Craven Cottage. Probably the only celebrations this ground has seen all season. As the fans filter out a Cambridge journo comes over to me and concedes that the best team lost. Scant consolation, but an honourable performance it was. We’ll leave you there as we make a dash for the river. Don’t forget to follow our live coverage of that event as well. I’ve heard the BBC has gone downhill a bit, so don’t bother with them.

CAMBRIDGE WIN THE 130th VARSITY FOOTBALL MATCH 4-2 ON PENALTIES. 0-0 AFTER 90 MINUTES.

MISS: Heardman pushes it wide of the left post. Oxford collapse to the floor as Cambridge celebrate.

GOAL: Gorringe goes low, Farmer guesses right but can’t get there. Heardman must score…

GOAL: Ben May sends Kent sprawling as he tucks it in low to the right, the keeper going in the opposite direction.

GOAL: Baynham-Herd for Cambridge. Farmer gets fingertips on it but not enough to push it away from goal.

MISS: Tozer blasts over. Farmer, it’s over to you.

GOAL: Hutton for Cambridge, sends Farmer the wrong way.

GOAL: Rubenstein goes the same way for Oxford. 1-1

GOAL: Excellent penalty. Low to Farmer’s left, no chance.

16.58 Cambridge Captain Anthony Childs takes responsibility for the first pen…

16.56 Such a cruel way to decide a match, penalties. A fairly even game but I give it to Oxford on points. Teams huddle up around the centre circle. I’m assuming those two late substitutes for Oxford were brought in with penalties in mind, although I do remember playing in goal in a college game when Dan Ginger hit the bar from the spot. Let’s hope he’s got that out of his system.

16.53 Swung in low to the near post by Tozer but Smith can only toe poke over the bar. That indeed was the last act of 90 minutes as Moss blows up. Penalties it is.

16.53 Last chance. Corner for Oxford. Everyone bar the full backs are up…

16.50 Hobkinson is looking knackered at right back as Gorringe storms past him but Moneke stretches a leg and intercepts the cross before it reaches Hutton. Oxford bring on Dan Ginger for Adriaenssens and Adam Heardman for Fletcher.

16.48 Oxford launch a free kick high into the box with Moneke running onto it but Kent catches comfortably this time. Nervous moments. Oxford line up a couple of subs. Specialist penalty takers?

16.47 Good news for Oxford as penalties loom. They have far less Englishmen in their side than Cambridge. Can only bode well. Four minutes of added time.

16.46 SUBSTITUTION John Gorringe on for Daniel Forde as Cambridge shuffle the pack. Two minutes of normal time remaining.

16.44 Game livening up and about time too. Best chance of the game so far by a distance as Oxford break with speed and substitute Smith leaps like a salmon to meet a floated cross from the left but heads agonizingly over. Should he have hit the target? Quite possibly. The Dark Blues suddenly look a bit more dynamic. A further foray down the left results in a corner which is again messily cleared by Cambridge. They haven’t looked comfortable at all when the ball has been put into the box.

16.43 Ben May has made some absolutely crucial interventions this afternoon and he does exceptionally well again to haul back Zac Baynham-Herd (must have been the substitute that I missed, mystery solved) who was clean through on goal. May puts in a good challenge and Oxford clear their lines.

16.39 As we reach 82 minutes, just to clarify, no extra-time. Straight to pens. Loving the tweets coming in, I didn’t think anyone actually followed us. Keeping myself and Alex entertained. Great stuff.

16.37 OUCH! Hobkinson is down after Hutton takes him out in his follow through. Crowd up in arms but I don’t think there was any malice in that. Looks painful though. Another banner in the crowd reads: “It’s Hobbycraft”. Let’s hope that can act as some inspiration for the full back who looks in some pain. Back on his feet but hobbling…

16.36 SUBSTITUTIONS: That was Essman’s last act as he is replaced by Matt Smith of Linacre College. Cambridge also make a change but I didn’t see who it was…sorry about that. Student journalism for you.

16.34 Essman so nearly through on goal. Good work from Fletcher winning the ball back for Oxford on the edge of the box, sliding in Essman who weaves his way around one defender before a superbly timed challenge from Michael Smith averts the danger. The resulting corner works its way to Adriaenssens on the edge of the box but his shot is blocked amidst shouts for handball. Moss is unmoved. Another corner for Oxford is headed narrowly wide by May. A bit of sustained pressure from the Dark Blues.

16.28 Alex is waxing lyrical over Oxford’s captain Jack Fletcher. A comparison to Frank Lampard is shot down given that Fletcher is stick thin. Beck-Friis is now being described as a not-shit Torres. Strong, good in the air but can run with the ball as well. Highest complements. Alex is much wittier than me, so if you’re bored of this follow him @oxstusport. Keep the tweets coming.

16.23 Some persistent work from Griffiths as he tees up Childs on the edge of the box but his low drive is comfortably gathered by Farmer. Pretty sure that’s his first save of the game. The momentum, of which there is very little in general, is starting to ebb back to the Light Blues. Both sides limited to fairly unthreatening long shots. Some substitutes warming up along the touchline. Might be time for a few changes as we approach the 70 minute mark.

16.19 Free kick here for Cambridge. Very central, about 25 yards out. Griffiths looks like he’s down with cramp after a surging run. Very tame free kick from Childs into the base of the wall and Oxford clear.

16.17 In a lame attempt to put the commentators’ curse on the scoreline, my money is on penalties after a double doughnut. Let’s hope that works. Nothing is happening really, but to be honest I could start making it up and you would be none the wiser.

16.11 Moss really must have been bored. He’s decided to get involved in the play now, blocking a pass from Elias Adriaenssens (don’t make me type that too often Elias). Oxford with all the play at the minute, a floated cross from the left causing all sorts of problems in the Cambridge defence after a skied clearance is dropped by Kent but he just gets to the loose ball ahead of Tozer. I wouldn’t normally condone Stoke circa 2011, but lamp a few high balls into Beck-Friis and Kent looks liable to gifting Oxford a goal here. The long throw nearly worked, let’s get Pulis down here to bark some instructions.

16.06 A break from Cambridge ends with a heavy touch from Griffiths and the move breaks down. Rather sums up the game so far. Second half proceeding much as the first. Pinball in midfield. Oxford’s very own Rory Delap, otherwise known as Mike Essman, launches a long throw into the box and Ben May heads over from close range unmarked. Jon Moss looks bored.

16.02 KICK-OFF. No changes for the second half, hopefully we will see some changes in the scoreline.

15.50 What to make of all that then? A fairly tame first-half it must be said, there’s been a few half-openings but accuracy and precision have let both sides down at the crucial moments. Overhit and underhit passes makings things awkward for the front men. It’s an overused word but composure was always going to be a critical factor in today’s tense environment, but both sides seem to be lacking it at the moment. Speaking to the fans over the interval, they seem rather despondent. A calming word from the coaches during the break might be in order. If that doesn’t work, we might have to get the tinnies in for the penalty shoot-out.

15.45 HALF-TIME. Oxford manage one final foray before the break, Beck-Friis demonstrating he has skill and pace to complement his power in the air, running rings around Cambridge’s left-back to get to the byline and flashing a dangerous ball across the face of goal but unfortunately for Oxford there is no one there to meet it.

15.38 My colleague Mr Fox thinks Cambridge have had the better of this half. I’m not so sure. They’ve certainly got in behind the defence more frequently than Oxford but without ever threatening Farmer in goal. Oxford have been more intelligent when they’ve had the ball and for my money look more likely to make the breakthrough. Fletcher testing out Kent with a curling effort but it’s straight into the goalkeeper’s bread basket. The way this game is going though, a goal from either side is looking like a fairly unlikely scenario as we approach half time.

15.36 Temperatures rising, but the scoreline unfortunately isn’t. Claims for a free kick on the edge of the Dark Blue penalty area turned down by Moss. The Tabs unwisely give him a bit of backchat. He’s a Premiership referee, not some unused substitute in a college seconds’ match. Respect, please.

15.33 This game really needs a goal and Oxford have decided the best way to do that is to test out Kent with some more balls into the box. He does look suspect under the high ball I must say, flapping unconvincingly and needing to be bailed out by his defence. At the other end Cambridge try to get in behind the Oxford defensive line but May and Moneke have looked assured at the back after a shaky start.

15.31 Slight opening for Cambridge, Moneke is dispossessed by Sherif who is then briefly through on goal but is stopped in his tracks by an excellent covering tackle from Ben May. Exeter’s centre-back clearly has some supporters in today, a banner over in the corner reads: “May – True or False?” I’ll let you decide.

15.26 Rubenstein showing his experience here, directing play from midfield and marshaling his team-mates as he does so. Meanwhile, over in the animalistic world of Alex’s Twitter feed, Oxford have been transformed from sleeping kittens at the start of this game to a more assertive breed of cougar. Few chances still and neither keeper has been tested as of yet so the crowd decide to ramp up the volume of very loudly telling everyone which University they attend. The game is simmering…

15.23 The ground really is packed now, both sides of the terraces are close to capacity and there is a very contained, Oxbridge inflected mumble going around the Cottage. Always slightly disappointed by the fans at these games. Britain’s finest minds have had 130 years to come up with some witty and incisive chants and the best they can come up with is a sheepish “Ooooxfooord”. Do better Oxbridge.

15.20  I tell you what, although Oxford were probably the underdogs going into today’s game, indeed Rubenstein conceded as much in our exclusive squad profiles, they are really beginning to assert themselves now. Cambridge’s early fizz has gone out of the game and the Dark Blues are looking by far the calmer side in possession. Captain Jack Fletcher embarassing Solomon Elliott with a delightful little flip-flap down the right. Straight out of FIFA 14 that was.

15.16 OXFORD HIT THE POST. Lovely ball drifted in from the left from Aidan Barry, Fergus Kent comes flapping and misses and from a tight angle Brook Tozer hits the frame of the goal. Much better from the Dark Blues. What a chance that was for Oxford. Over on the Twitter feed Alex has compared Tozer to a small, blonde fish just to give you a visual image of proceedings.

15.15 First 15 have been a bit scrappy to say the least. Nerves are evident but the game is becoming stretched. Oxford are beginning to claw their way back into the contest, the big no.9 Beck-Friis bossing things in the air.

15.09 First bit of niggle so far today. Beck-Friis is scythed down and our referee today, the Premier League’s Jon Moss, has a word or two with the dirty Tab tackler.

15.05 Some hairy defending from Oxford there. Haitham Sherif this time down the right for Cambridge, his low cross is poorly cleared by Ben May straight to Chris Hutton, but he gets the block in to redeem himself. Someone needs to get a grip of this ball for Oxford in midfield and calm some nerves.

15.02 Cambridge with the early pressure, Daniel Forde with some direct running down the right-hand side but so far Barry has been equal to it. Ezra Rubenstein, returning Blue and OUAFC stalwart is already cajoling his troops, but Oxford can’t seem to get a hold of the ball at the moment.

15.01 Will run you through the Cambridge line-up as soon as we can. OxStu website playing up as expected. Shambles, the previous editors of this paper are chumps.

15.00 And we’re underway, Cambridge kicking off from left to right

14.52 Let’s run you through the starting line-ups, beginning with Oxford. * denotes returning Blue

  1. Jamie Farmer – Balliol
  2. Tom Hobkinson – St Edmund’s Hall
  3. Aidan Barry – St John’s
  4. Alias Adrianessens – Wolfson
  5. Mike Moneke * – Trinity
  6. Ben May – Exeter
  7. Brook Tozer – Wolfson
  8. Jack Fletcher – Exeter (captain)
  9. Peder Beck-Friis * – Christchurch
  10. Ezra Rubenstein * – Trinity
  11. Mike Essman * – Exeter

and on the bench:

12. Alex Tsaptinos -Pembroke; 14 Dan Ginger – Keble; 15 Adam Heardman; 16 Matt Smith – St John’s; 17 Ben Szreter – Wadham

Cambridge University AFC:

  1. Fergus Kent * – Pembroke
  2. Simon Court * – Fitzwilliam
  3. Solomon Elliott * – Homerton
  4. James May * – Christ’s
  5. Michael Smith – Trinity
  6. James Day * – Jesus
  7. Daniel Forde * – St John’s
  8. Anthony Childs * – Homerton (captain)
  9. Haitham Sherif * – Girton
  10. Chris Hutton – Selwyn
  11. Rory Griffiths * – Trinity Hall

And warming the bench for the Light Blues: 7. Zac Baynham-Herd – Queen’s; 12. John Gorringe – Queen’s; 13. Henry Warne – Fitzwilliam; 14. Rich Wolstenhulme – Darwin; 16. Chris Fountain – King’s

14.47 Varsity matches are always difficult to predict given that the two sides play in different area leagues and the squads are almost entirely overhauled year to year, so last year’s result probably has little bearing on this afternoon. Rick Totten, the stand out performer for Cambridge last year, has moved on and Oxford are without their long-term goal machine Julian Austin. Varsity pedigree remains however, particularly in the form of Ezra Rubenstein who scored for the Dark Blues in last year’s fixture. Cambridge probably start as slight favourites, given that they have won back-to-back promotions and now play in the highest tier of UK University football: the Premier South, although they struggled this year and only avoided relegation because Gloucestershire were unable to field a side in their relegation six-pointer. Oxford on the other hand finished the season strongly to take third place in BUCS Midlands 1A. OUAFC skipper Jack Fletcher nailed it when he told OxStu Sport, “It’s going to come down to who takes their chances on the day, who shows more composure and who comes out of the blocks fastest.”

14.41 A potted history of this fixture for you. This is the 130th Varsity meeting and after all those years it could not be closer. Oxford have 50 wins to Cambridge’s 49, with 30 ending in draws. Fortunately there is no chance of the dreaded deadlock today as penalties will decide the match if the scores are level after 90 minutes. A draw in Varsity? What an anti-climax. More incredibly the goal difference stands at just +1 to Oxford, with 205 goals to the Tabs’ 204. Cambridge have won the last two fixtures, prevailing 3-2 in 2013 thanks to a quite brilliant hat-trick from Rick Totten. In truth, that scoreline flattered Oxford slightly, who were well outplayed on the day. Here’s hoping for a reversal of fortunes this afternoon.

14.30 So, it’s only taken 130 years, but Oxbridge has finally cottoned onto the fact that hosting the Varsity Football match at a Thames Riverside Stadium on the same day as the Boat Race is actually a bloody good idea. We’ve got a double-header of sporting action today and you can follow it all here. What else could you possibly ask for? I’m here to talk you through the footballing action live from the gantry of Craven Cottage and my dear friend and colleague Alexander Fox is manning the @oxstusport Twitter feed; keep those tweets coming in. The teams are already out warming up on the pitch, the stands are…umm…totally empty, but I’m sure they will fill up soon enough, we’re expecting a crowd of around 3,000 today. Strap yourselves in and get ready for a day of drama, tension, typos and thrills and spills galore.

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