The boys had to play three games over the afternoon, with games one and two straight after each other, testing their fitness to the limit.
The first match was against Oxford Hawks, always a tough encounter. The boys played some fabulous hockey and Callam Chapman in goal for Hawks made two excellent saves before Freddy Campbell broke away from the Hawks defence to slot a low shot into the corner.
This inspired the Oxford team and the boys went on to add three more, to finish with a 4-0 win.
A thirty-minute break seemed to go very quickly and the boys were showing early signs of tiredness against our hosts, a Stourport team who were blessed with some very talented players. A Stourport player received a yellow card for a challenge more commonly seen at Twickenham, jumping on Niall Devaney’s back, injuring Niall and unfortunately ruling him out for the rest of the day.
Oxford opened the scoring, but a defensive error lead to Stourport’s equaliser and the game swung in their favour. Shortly after the half time break, Stourport were awarded a short corner which led to their second goal – hotly disputed as it was the first shot at goal and way above the back board. The Stourport umpire however persuaded the Oxford Club Chairman it should stand.
Within 2 minutes, Oxford were level with a goal straight off the training ground, slotted away by Jona Boender. Oxford seemed to get a second wind and finished off the game strongly and thought they had won it when Jacques Tasker took it round the keeper but his reverse hit went just wide. 2-2.
Oxford had a two-match break, watching the other matches to see what result would be needed in their last game. Hawks had a tough time against Northampton Saints, who were to be Oxford’s last opponents, conceding 5. This made the Oxford boys re-think: Northampton were not going to be a push over!
Oxford players then watched Stourport, who were on level points with Oxford, take on Hawks knowing goal difference could decide who went through. Some magnificent saves from Callum Chapman meant Stourport were frustrated and ending up beating a hard-working Hawks by just 1-0. The Oxford boys were very grateful to Cullam at the final whistle!
Oxford needed to win the last game to go through. Northampton were very up for the game and were keen to get runners up spot. However, the Oxford boys came out of the blocks flying and a diving tap in at the far post after two minutes partly settled the nerves. The boys went on to put three more in before half time and, apart from conceding a penalty flick, Oxford never took their foot off the gas. The game finished 4-1 in Oxford’s favour.
Oxford go through on 7 points and a better goal difference of 3. The boys now look forward to taking part in a hockey weekend in Wakefield on the 13/14 April. We believe they are the first Oxfordshire U16 boys’ team to reach the England Cup National finals – a really impressive achievement. Congratulations to all involved!
Thank to the parents for their support and coaches for helping umpire.