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Play-off heartbreak for men’s hockey Blues

Caitlin Rigler reports on an unfortunate end to a brilliant season for the men's hockey Blues

After a very successful season for the Men’s Hockey Blues, during which they gained promotion in the Saturday league as well as a long-awaited Varsity win, crowds congregated at Iffley on 10 May for their final match.

In an attempt to avenge last season’s relegation from their BUCS league, the Blues met Reading University at home in the second leg of a two-match play-off.

Oxford were in a good position, having held Reading to a 2-2 draw away courtesy of two flicks by Noah Francis, so were hoping for a good result.

Despite the vocal support of the large crowd that the out-of-season fixture drew, the Blues conceded two early goals, putting the away side 2-0 ahead at half time. Impressive individual play by Mark Lilley and Will Mooney provided the Blues with numerous chances in the early second half.

These opportunities eventually paid off, as Jolyon Dannatt finished off a slick move featuring a beautiful link-up between David Jones and Andrew Oxburgh. As the Blues made it 2-1, hopes were high as it felt like another goal was just around the corner.

Unfortunately, despite notable saves from George Oyebode, the Blues were unable to pull it back and conceded at last minute goal to leave the score 3-1 to Reading.

Oyebode, recently awarded man of the season for a sublime year in goal, told Cherwell that the team were “all gutted” about the result.

“The whole season’s work, [which included] winning some big games against Cambridge and Cardiff, was undone, so to have to do it all again next year…it’s quite sad.

“In the first leg we probably should have come back a couple of goals ahead of them. They were on top in the first half of the second game, and they used their chances [more than us],” he continued.

When asked if it was a case of rustiness after a long Easter vacation, Oyebode said “maybe we hadn’t played as much together, and didn’t have as many games together as Reading had,” but still expressed his delight at how the season had panned out overall.

Indeed, this loss should not overshadow the overwhelming success of Ryan Kavanagh’s side this season. With a new Saturday league in which to make their mark, as well as a Varsity title to retain, things are only looking up for the Men’s Blues.

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