By Charles Walmsley
Two goals from captain Julian Austin secured a victory for the Blues that will also come as a welcome relief from their battle against relegation in the BUCS Midlands first division.
Playing under the floodlights at Iffley for the first time the Blues made several changes to the line-up that had lost 3-1 at Warwick two days previously, with Luke Deveraux and Ejike Onuchukwu given places in the starting line-up. The latter shone on the right wing, beating the opposition left back several times within the first ten minutes. It was therefore no surprise that he played a major role in shaping the first goal, winning the corner from which Austin volleyed home on the edge of the six yard box around 16 minutes into the game.
The lead was deserved; earlier Healy had seen a header cleared off the line whilst the midfield and attack were passing the ball around with ease in the Brookes half. A head injury to right back Thomas meant he left the field of play for treatment, returning minutes later with a bandage round his head, bringing images of Terry Butcher in Rome to mind. He channelled this almost immediately upon returning to the action, a brilliant sliding tackle stopping the Brookes number 9 from breaking through the defence.
The Blues were good at retaining their shape, restricting Brookes to long range efforts, one of which had Haigh beaten but came thundering back off the crossbar. Otherwise the Blues goal was largely unthreatened in the first half, with the greater impact coming from off the pitch and the various uses of the word ‘w****r’ issuing from the Brookes fans. On the pitch Brookes were simply too narrow, seemingly lining-up in a 4-2-3-1 that allowed Onuchukwu and Tomas Castrodopico to run into space down the wings and create chances that Healy and Austin failed to convert. It was only after half-time that they seemed to recognise this threat, causing the two wingers to run into dead ends and concede possession one too many times. This came at a cost though as their greatest threat, the number ten, was forced to move wider and track back more, leaving Brookes without a serious goal threat as successive chances for an equaliser presented themselves.
With Onuchukwu’s departure on the hour mark a different threat emerged for the Blues as Sam Donald relied less on pace and more on possession to fashion chances. Castrodopico’s corners caused problems in the Brookes defence again and again, with Deveraux testing the keeper from twenty five yards and Healy forcing several good saves before Austin once again found himself in space at the back post, allowing him to smash another volley over the keeper’s head and double the Blues’ lead.
15 minutes were left and Brookes had to react, but again they were frustrated by a formation that didn’t allow them possession in the middle, forcing them to work their way through a packed defence. Another long range shot teased the possibility of a close finish but it was nothing more than a speculative effort, in many way a metaphor for Brookes’ day; even the now customary streaker was left aimlessly running round as the stewards watched on bemused at the sight. As the game petered out a string of unnecessary and stupid challenges led to a flurry of yellow cards for Blues players, but the result was never under threat.
The Blues must now turn their attention to the final three games of the season and their bid to remain in the division. With the Varsity match on the horizon as well, the next month will define the team’s season.