ALL THE GOALS IN GIFS: Centaurs Grind Out Extra Time Win

Did we say goals? As in, plural? Yeah, about that…

In a performance equal parts dominant and frustrating, the Centaurs (Oxford Men’s 2nd’s team) took their time today but eventually dispatched University College Birmingham 4ths in the preliminary round of the Midlands Conference Cup in a 1-0 extra time victory.

Playing in white as their UCB   opponents donned an all-navy kit (save for their keeper in a Croatian national team top), the Centaurs were the bookies’ favourites – playing two tiers above their opponents in the BUCS Midlands leagues.

A win was expected but could not be taken for granted – a shaky start to the league campaign saw them with one point from two games, and an upset by the Brummie underdogs could be devastating.

The game opened in cagey fashion – the pick of the early efforts were all speculative strikes, with the first real effort coming about ten minutes on a breakaway from UCB’s pacey #31 out on the left between the right-back and a centre-back; only a well-positioned response by Centaurs keeper Blane Scott prevented a big chance.

With only a few half-chances emerging, UCB quickly became frustrated, throwing up long ball after long ball. One effort 25 minutes in attracted calls for a penalty – a robust challenge by the keeper in the box saw several UCB players cry foul, but the ref said no, and actually awarded a foul against the UCB striker; replays showed it was the correct decision.

Shortly after, Richard Hall came close with what would have been one of the better goals of the season so far – an effort from the corner of the box was struck beautifully, but barely went wide.

Another great chance came from Fred Howell, but he was unable to capitalise on a good run and the keeper was untroubled by the final effort. After a brief period of pressure from UCB – including a last-ditch clearance from Scott – the teams went into the dressing rooms for halftime with the game still scoreless.

After the break, neither team looked like breaking the deadlock in a hurry. Asides from a couple of penetrating runs by Rowland Carter, Oxford struggled to push into the final third, while UCB failed to keep up with Oxford’s up-tempo pressing system.

Oxford’s front three pushed up further and further, while UCB moved from a 4-4-2 to something closer to a 4-5-1, but with little luck; Oxford were continually unable to turn possession into serious chances.

The single best chance of the game came in the dying minutes of regular time –full-back Hayden Cooke took the ball to the edge of the area, passes his man, and threaded a low ball through that took a bad bounce off Howell’s foot just inches from goal and went wide.

Finishing 0-0 after 90 minutes, it would take extra time for the Centaurs to finally put the game away. A long throw from Nathan Riddell into the box came out right into Rowland Carter’s feet, and the tricky winger slotted it in from 15 yards to finally give Oxford a long-deserved lead.

Centaurs 1 – 0 UCB

With the home team firmly in control, the win should have been put to bed a couple of minutes later – a cannon of a shot from inside the area by substitute Edward Mole came off the crossbar, and Rowland Carter could have scored on the rebound but just slightly overplayed it.

The win sees the Centaurs through to the last 64 of the cup, with a road trip to face either division rivals Worcester 3rds or recently-relegated Leicester 2nds on the cards for next week.