Oxford’s mighty Masters (over 35s) side was in action for the first time this season as they travelled to Northampton Saints on Sunday for the first round of the EHB Women’s Masters Trophy. Affectionately described as “the youth policy” by acting captain Katie Smith, our 12 players included players from every single one of our seven women’s Saturday teams.
Northampton proved not to be as far away as our captain thought but, despite our lengthy warm-up (plenty of chat / trips to get coffee), we started the slower of the two teams and faced a barrage of early pressure. Luckily the defence mostly stood firm, with some truly outstanding saves from our guest keeper, Linda Billington.
On the right, Marianne’s brilliant timing and one-handed tackles saw her steal the ball numerous times and set up attacks down that wing, where she was well supported by Paula and Nadine. Helen was doing an excellent job on the left too, while in the middle, Emma and Katie battled hard and competed for the prize of who could make the most impressive diving last-ditch tackle (Emma winning, but only just!).
Despite this, Northampton did take a 1-0 lead, but Oxford settled into the game more and levelled at 1-1 before half-time at a penalty corner. Captain Katie’s strike was saved by the keeper but was too good for her to clear completely and Paula pounced onto the rebound to slot home.
The second half proved more evenly matched and – who’d have thought it – we seemed perhaps to be the slightly fitter of the two sides as the match wore on and it turned into a series of end to end attacks. Alice worked hard on the left wing, despite not always getting the best of service, but making the most of it when she did get the ball!
Northampton went 2-1 ahead but Tinny soon made it 2-2 with a sweet short corner strike. Oxford then took the lead after good build-up play from Kelly, who passed to Tinny to cross the ball for Sarah to fire into the net.
Northampton fought back however and scored in the last few minutes to upset their manager (who was hoping he wouldn’t have to pay the fee for extra pitch time) to bring the final score to 3-3. The competition organisers must have decided that it would be unsafe to impose extra-time on ladies of a certain age, so we went straight to flicks.
Goalie Linda (our captain’s ‘Girlie of the Game’) played a starring role and only the first Northampton flick taker was successful. Unfortunately, Oxford were a little rusty on scoring their own set of flicks, with only Tinny showing us how it should be done (an interesting football-style flick high and down the middle for her first, which the keeper somehow managed to duck out the way of).
The Northampton goalie then helpfully pointed out that Kelly’s flick was “too obvious”, and Claire’s flick was also saved while Katie shot just wide and Sarah hit the post with some force! As there was a 1-1 deadlock, the tension rose yet another notch and we moved to sudden death. Linda kept the opposition out, while Tinny stepped up again to demonstrate how a penalty flick should be taken and took us through to the next round, which also happens to be the quarter-finals.
Oxford have been drawn at home to Shefford and Sandy and the match will take place in February next year.
Score: Northampton 3-3 Oxford (Oxford won 2-1 on penalty flicks)
Scorers: Paula, Tinny, Sarah (and Tinny x 2 on flicks)
Man of the Match: Linda