Cambridge arrived at Craven Cottage looking to seal a historic tenth consecutive Varsity victory. With both women’s teams and both men’s reserves teams clinching Varsity victories this season, all eyes were on the men in light blue to repeat last year’s feat of a Varsity clean sweep for Cambridge football.
Cambridge’s pre kick-off sprint warm-up set the tone for the first half: The Light Blues looked sharp and disciplined, if discernibly nervous in front of the 3,000-strong crowd.
The dominant side in the opening twenty minutes of the game, Cambridge’s drive and determination was evident as they battled admirably for every fifty-fifty challenge. Beck-Friis’ power through the middle and Oxford captain Fletcher’s skill threatened to rupture Cambridge’s defence at times but despite hitting the post, Oxford’s attempts in front of goal came to nothing.
The back four remained solid throughout and James Day’s experience and dominance in the air provided an anchor for an impressive defensive performance. Cambridge utilised the full backs to great effect, as Simon Court’s industry both defensively and in drives down the right wing, and Solomon Elliot’s creativity on the ball, provided space and opportunities. Nevertheless, both teams looked stifled in the first half, and Cambridge struggled to convert possession into chances in the final third.
The momentum was with Oxford after the break, and despite the football becoming increasingly scrappy throughout the half, Cambridge showed moments of genius. Notably, Rory Griffiths beat two Oxford defenders in winning a free kick on the edge of the box, but Cambridge failed to capitalise on the set-piece. Substitution Zac Baynham-Herd upset the Oxford defence, but not enough to secure a winner for Cambridge.
A frustrating ninety minutes for Cambridge ended goalless and so the match was to be decided on penalties. Cambridge rose to the occasion. Some superb penalties from Childs, Hutton, May and Gorringe, and some embarrassing Oxford misses gave Cambridge an unassailable 4-2 lead. Cambridge captain Anthony Childs will be proud of the discipline and determination his side showed in taking a deserved victory against tough Oxford opposition.