Late Winner keeps Mulholland memorial Trophy in Oxford
A wonderful gathering of Duncan Mulholland's friends and family saw the current Centaurs score a late winner to secure a 2-1 victory over the Old Boys in a close encounter.
A strong old boys line-up from across the years, including many who played alongside and under Duncan, refused to be intimidated by an extremely professional looking warm-up from the current intake, the fact they had a manager in a suit jacket, or pre-match battery related camera problems and started brightly, no doubt inspired by a rousing pre-match team talk from Skipper McMahon which involved listing the team and then standing there in silence.
Centaurs legend Tom Brown looked bright and sprightly in his first game for 11 months and showed glimpses of the old pace up top and was unlucky with an attempted lob from range ten minutes in as Siah probed away in midfield like an inventive chihuahua.
The three strong ginger contingent in the back four of Gorrie, Coles and the wasp McDermott showed the sort of understanding only mutual hair colour can foster to repeatedly repel early attacks while Randall at right back refused to allow the fact that he had to sweep his hair away from his eyes before every header get in his way.
When they were breached McMahon made a smart save down low to his right after 20 minutes while Thomas and Pringle probed down the wings and Winterton was unlucky not to get on the end of a particularly prickly Pringle thrust down the right which nearly saw the old boys take the lead.
It was the current Centaurs though who edged ahead just before the half hour mark when a long throw from the left was allowed to bounce in the box and Versailles swivelled sharply and fired smartly towards goal. McMahon made an acrobatic effort to keep it out but a combination of bar and post saw the ball sneak over the line.
Buoyed on by the ever competitive Milburn in midfield, so keen for the tackle he even started a policy of passing to the opposition so that he could win it back, the old boys were unlucky not to get back on level terms before the break when Winterton turned and fired left footed towards goal only to be denied by a wonderful stop by Reuben Holt in the Centaurs goal.
The effort levels remained high after half-time in front of the appreciative crowd as McMahon called on his bench to try and help find a way back into the game. Perkins added energy and intent to the midfield in vintage manner as Wherry and Hazzard formed a new combination at the heart of the defence.
One raking Wherry ball to the lively Thomas almost set up a good chance for Brown while another wonderful piece of passing interplay did end in a good opportunity for the soon to be Doctor, the front man later putting his weak finish down to being convinced he was offside.
As the old boys continued to press for the equaliser McMahon was twice called upon to keep them in the game with smart saves which looked like being vital as Brown eventually did find the much sought after breakthrough with fifteen minutes remaining.
Winterton produced a perfectly weighted curled through ball and Brown shrugged off a challenge before finding an exquisite lofted finish from out wide on the right. It was a goal worthy of the fixture and produced obvious delight from team mates and fans alike. Many complimented the awareness and daring of Brown for taking on such an early and ambitious finish, plaudits which were undiminished by his later admission that he'd been 'too tired to take another touch.'
Buoyed on the old boys pushed forward for the win and were almost caught on the break only for Coles to produce a wonderfully judged clearance a hairs breadth wide of the left hand upright.
They looked to have a good opportunity to find a winner when Perkins swung a dangerous free kick over from the right but having thrown caution to the wind and men forward the old boys were caught by a quick Centaurs break. There was more than a suspicion of offside as the initial through ball was played, and though Randall on linesman duty insisted the forward was inside his own half, his claims were later weakened by the revelation that he'd been in animated conversation with a fan (now identified as former Centaur Matthew Rigby) at the time.
Perkins thought once, thought twice, thought three times about bringing the man down and the thinking must have been too much for the ex-Chemist as he instead tripped over his own feet allowing the ball to be slid across the helpless McMahon for fresher Donald to tap in.
It was a harsh blow on the ambitious old boys, though one which was almost cancelled out minutes later when a Perkins free kick from range crashed against Holt's bar from 25 yards.
The older legs though couldn't quite find a second equaliser and it was current side who held out to secure victory and with it the Duncan Mulholland Memorial Trophy. The old boys will take solace in a number of strong performances later in the evening.
I'm sure we would all like to thank those from both sides who contributed to the organising of this fixture which I'm sure will continue for many years and to Duncan's family and friends for their wonderful support.
The Centaurs belied their lowly place in the BUSA league with a well-fought win over the Old Centaurs in the Duncan Mulholland Memorial Game on 6 Feb. This is an annual fixture to commemorate the life of Duncan, who captained the Centaurs team in 2004/05 before his untimely death a year later of Sudden Adult Death Syndrome. Many of his friends and family make the trip to the Christchurch ground for the occasion every year.
The Old Boys included several old Blues in their line-up, and a stunning late goal from the aged Tom Brown delighted the spectators and looked to have stolen a draw, but the Centaurs caught them on the break three minutes from time.
After a hat-trick in the corresponding fixture last year, the stand-out performer in the first half was the Centaursâ€™ Bruno Versailles, who found room in the box to score on the half hour after a long throw was not dealt with. The Old Boys were driven forward by livewire Johnny Siah and were unlucky not to reply after dangerous crosses from Paul Gorrie and Lloyd Thomas were put wide.
The Old Boys brought on a pair of former Blues captains at half time, Jack Hazzard and Tom Wherry, to rest Gorrie and Paul Coles at centre half, but it was the Centaurs who started the half the brighter, with former Blues cricket captain Paul McMahon forced into some fine saves in the Old Boysâ€™ goal.
With time running out, Brown received the ball wide on the right and found himself onside for once. His fabled pace took him beyond the last man but it required a spectacular chipped shot to the far post to beat Centaurs keeper Reuben Holt, who had an outstanding game.
One-all looked a fair result, but the Old Boys pressed forward for the equaliser and were undone by a fast break that had a shade of off-side about it to the untrained eye.
The game was nearly given a grandstand finish by another old Blue, James Perkins, making a welcome return in Oxford after a horrific leg injury at Iffley Road in 2005. His 25 yard free kick looked goal bound with the keeper rooted, but it struck the bar and the trophy duly stayed with the students.