Harry Normanton



Bristol gave Cambridge a lesson in finishing in romping to a 5-2 victory on a bitter November evening at Wilberforce Road. In doing so the visitors leap-frogged the Light Blues at the bottom of the BUCS South A division, leaving the home team still seeking their first league win of the season. The result belied the closely-fought nature of the match; Cambridge were the better team for long stretches. But they failed to convert their pressure into goals, whereas their opponents were ruthlessly efficient, storming to a 5-0 lead early in the second half which the Light Blues were unable to recover from.

It was a night of what-might-have-been for Cambridge. Particularly in the first 15 minutes, they dominated both territory and possession. Bristol seemed taken aback by their hosts’ defensive tenacity. Harried and hurried, they rushed into ill-advised passes, invariably picked off by lurking Cambridge defenders. The Light Blues, by contrast, were patient and assured in attack, zipping precise passes down the wings to fashion several good opportunities. Most notably, they won three short corners; the most dangerous attacking set piece, resulting from a foul inside the ‘D’ – the shooting arc with a radius of 15 metres that surrounds the goal. The ball is swept from the end line to an attacker waiting at the edge of the ‘D’. As the pass is made, the defensive team, who must start crowded into their own goal, hurtle towards the attacker, attempting to close them down before they can swat the ball into the goal. It is a difficult prospect from a defensive perspective, but brave defending helped Bristol to see off all three early Light Blue short corners.

Cambridge were quickly made to rue their wastefulness. At the 15-minute mark, a speculative ‘aerial’ – a long, lofted pass – was brought down by a Bristol attacker, and a foul inside the D won them a short corner. It was Bristol’s first attack of the match, but they took full advantage, lashing the ball home via a couple of deflections to take the lead.

The Light Blues responded by redoubling their efforts. A mazy, slaloming run down the right wing set up a one-on-one for attacker Georgie Burrows, but the Bristol keeper, clad in thick blue foam pads, made a good save with her left knee to preserve the visitors’ lead. From the resulting corner Cambridge flashed a shot just wide of the right hand post. An equaliser felt imminent.

Instead, though, it was Bristol who struck next; a fine run down the left wing finished with an emphatic slap shot from the edge of the D. Then, on the stroke of half time, the visitors added a third; a well-placed through ball setting an attacker through one-on-one with Light Blue keeper Freddie Briscoe. A well hit reverse sweep gave her no chance, thunking against the backboard just inside the far post and sending Bristol’s players into wild celebrations.

In retrospect, this was really the crushing blow that consigned Cambridge to defeat. Having dominated for most of the half, they went into the interval trailing 3-0, and captain Hatty Darling admitted that “heads began to go down”. When play resumed, Bristol were brimming with confidence, adding two quick goals. The first was bundled in after a goal-mouth scramble from a short corner, but the second was a thing of beauty. Receiving the ball closely marked around the 25-yard line, the Bristol attacker used a reverse spin to wheel past two Cambridge defenders, before slaloming past several more using an ‘Indian dribble’ – spinning the stick from one side of the ball to the other. From the middle of the D she slammed a shot towards the right hand post, where it was deflected in by an alert team-mate.


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The game then, ten minutes into the second half, was effectively over, but Cambridge refused to go down quietly. Five minutes later they at last made it onto the scoresheet, a neat exchange of passes down the left wing culminated in a rasping cross deflected in at the back post by Bella Padt. Rejuvenated, they added a second. Having gifted Cambridge the ball inside their own 25-yard line, Bristol managed to survive the ensuing goal-mouth scramble, but they could only clear it as far as Sophia Padt on the left hand side of the D, who swept the ball in off the far post.

It was too little, too late from the Light Blues, though, and after the game captain Hatty Darling expressed her frustration: “The scoreline didn’t reflect us as a side but we played ourselves out of the game early on.” She was not despondent, though, insisting that “the talent’s there, we just have to pull together as a team to get the results in”.

Bristol, meanwhile, revelled in their first win of the season. Captain Catherine Round summed up the mood: “We’ve travelled four-and-a-half hours and we’ve finally got some points on the board! We’re ecstatic.” Cambridge will look to get their season back on track when they travel to Bath next week.

Cambridge: Freddie Briscoe, Hatty Darling (c), Molly Buxton, Rhianna Miller, Amy Edwards, Clare Marsh, Hattie Bevan, Alicia Murphy, Charlotte Burrows, Bethan Moncur, Bella Padt, Sophia Padt, Annalise Whitehead, Georgie Burrows, Beth Barker, Lydia Copeland

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