A superb solo goal from John Craven in the last play of the game saw Keble win mixed hockey cuppers at Iffley Road on Saturday. Cheered on a by a small but vocal crowd, the underdogs pulled off a dramatic upset to beat favourites St Catherine’s College by 3 goals to 2.
In a tense opening period littered with mistakes by both sides, it was Catz who started brighter, repeatedly threatening the Keble D and only being kept out by some frantic and scrambled defending. Yet it was Keble who finally broke the deadlock after 28 minutes: when a free hit on the edge of the D was deflected fortuitously into the path of Max Freeman-Mills, the crowd favourite made no mistake, rifling the ball past the Catz keeper with devastating accuracy. A determined Keble side then worked hard to consolidate their lead, however a yellow card to center back Stuart Murphy saw Catz begin to gain momentum. Some excellence on the line defending from Danny Johnson momentarily kept the favourites at bay, before Becky Wyatt took advantage of some sloppy defensive play at a short corner to drive the ball between the legs of keeper Andy Pursley, leaving the game all square at half time.
Both sides emerged from the break clearly determined to seize the initiative, and a yellow card for Catz after some persistent stick tackling made Keble seem the more likely scorer. The Saints defended rigorously however, until their resistance was finally broken in the 59th minute with John Craven deftly flicking the ball into the net after an incisive pass from playmaker Felix Hamer.
An unfortunate injury to a St Catz player caused a lengthy stop in play, but the favourites came out fighting, forcing two smart saves from Pursley in a spell of persistent pressure. Keble’s lack of discipline in the D saw yet another short corner for Catz, and this time Hugh Brannan made no mistake, placing the ball skillfully past the Keble keeper to level the score again and set up a tense finale. As both sides pushed hard for an elusive winning goal, the game became increasingly open, with possession changing hands on an almost pass-by-pass basis. Yet just as the match seemed destined for penalty flicks, Craven bagged his second, forcing his way inside the D and sweeping home a superb finish with quite literally the last touch of the game.Asked what had made the difference in such a close match, Keble captain Sam Hornby was quick to emphasise that the victory was the result of “a fantastic team effort”, adding: “we’ve had a few tough defeats over the season, but this makes up for all of them – it’s the best possible finish”.