It has been a tough season for the newly promoted Women’s Blues football team. Now playing in the top league in their region, they have struggled to keep up with the pace and talent of their opposition. Unfortunate injuries have plagued the side leaving them bottom of the league without a single point.
But on Friday night, in front a packed Iffley stadium, the Blues regained some of their former glory. Playing against Oxford Brookes, who play in the league below the Blues but have had a much stronger season so far, the side showed their ability for free-flowing and confident football. Oxford could not have had a better start to the match when, within the first five minutes, striker Ella Vickers Strutt was played through on goal stretching the Brookes goalkeeper and scoring in the left corner. The rest of the first half was uneventful and evenly matched with both teams struggling with the speed of the ball in the wet conditions. Despite a number of nervy moments for the Oxford defence, which has seen a number of recent changes, Oxford held firm and went into the break still in the lead.
The Blues were on the backfoot for much of the second half. Brookes dominated possession with most of the game being played in the Blues half. But they struggled to put together a complete move reverting to lobbed balls to the attack when they were stifled by the Blues’ defence. Taiye Lewal and Rani Wermes were especially strong in the midfield showing versatile skill to deny Brookes a chance on goal. When Monique Pedroza came on twenty minutes into the second half, the Blues seemed to gain real momentum. She immediately had an impact, winning the ball in midfield with some stylish footwork before linking it into Wermes who – after a dominant performance which earned her woman of the match – was assured in front of goal and converted to double the lead.
A Brookes goal was inevitable with their dominance in possession and it would come in the last twenty minutes of the game. A lapse in the Blues defence led to a nicely worked goal from the Brookes’ right wing, making it 2-1. But the visitors failed to capitalise on the goal and, despite continuing to put on pressure, didn’t create any more real chances. An uneventful, if slightly messy, last ten minutes brought the match to a close and handed the Varsity trophy to Oxford.
This was an important victory for the Blues both in itself and for the rest of their season. After a number of disappointing results and difficulties with injuries, they finally have a team result that they can all feel proud of. It certainly wasn’t the most assured performance by a Blues team, but they were strong and never really looked in danger of losing. As coach Mark Haning said, “If we are realists, I don’t think we are going to win the league, but its games like this, and the periods of play that we have put together, that are great to see. Those are the bits that we’ve worked on so it’s really nice to see that their hard work has paid off.
“And obviously there’s a lot of prestige in winning this game, so I am just pleased for them that they got this victory. They’ve been building up to give a team a hard time and I think today was it, so they probably peaked at the right time.”
The Blues return to their normal BUCS fixtures next week playing the University of South Wales at home on Wednesday. But, for the moment, they will celebrate a deserved but hard-earned victory on a rainy night in Iffley.
Later that evening, Oxford Men’s side were dominant against a Brookes’ outfit who were recently beaten by the Oxford second team. Goals from Dom Thelen, Zach Liew, Oliver Cantrill and Chris Coveney gave the Blues a 4-0 victory in the Varsity match.