Hockey: Oxford cheered by Le Huray's strike: Honours even as the Dark Blues begin their build-up up for next month's Varsity match

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OXFORD UNIVERSITY salvaged a draw in their annual fixture against the Hockey Association at Oxford yesterday in a game which reflected the damp, dismal conditions.

The HA side, including six of the England Under-18 squad, showed considerable individual skill but little cohesion in the opening exchanges. However, they were quick to put Oxford under pressure with half chances falling to Richard Gibson and Mark Pearn.

Oxford, having survived the initial onslaught, used long sledgehammer passes to progress but neglected the midfield and were unable to dictate the pattern. Even so they set up three chances for their senior players, Wayne Graham, Grant Edwards and Chris Bloor, which went begging before the HA took the lead in the 53rd minute.

A precision free-hit from Guy Fordham to Simon Archer pierced the Oxford defence and Archer's shot was turned round the post by Arshad Khan for a penalty corner. Ben Sharpe's powerful drive was then deflected into the net off Edwards's stick.

At the other end Bloor's powerful drag at Oxford's only penalty corner hit the upright before the equalising goal from Martin Le Huray, latching on to a through pass from Edwards, came in the 63rd minute.

Le Huray might have scored again a couple of minutes later when he burst through the HA ranks only to be blocked by the Trent College schoolboy, Keith Reesby, with the ball running out of play. It would have been a winner that, on yesterday's display, the University did not deserve.

For the HA Ben Barnes gave a steady performance in defence with Hounslow's Fordham looking good going forward while, in midfield, Alistair Boyce was always involved. Oxford, with the Varsity match at Reading less than two weeks away, will want to forget this game. With just two National League games remaining Oxford, in their first season at this level, look like finishing third, a remarkable achievement for the coach, Gavin Featherstone, who was not happy yesterday.

OXFORD UNIVERSITY: O Wesseley (Worcester); S Mackay (Pembroke), R Markham (Worcester), R McDowel (St Benet's), J Pratt (University), C Bloor (Keble), S Griffiths (University, capt), G Edwards (Lincoln); M Le Huray (Keble), W Kendall (Keble), W Graham (Keble). Substitutes used: A Khan (Christ Church), D Edwards (St Edmund Hall) and S Morley (Green).,

HOCKEY ASSOCIATION: J Barrow (Hounslow); A Lock (Beeston), G Fordham (Hounslow, capt), J Boyce (Lewes), K Reesby (Beeston); M Kochar (Welton), A Boyce (East Grinstead), B Sharpe (Cannock), R Gibson (East Grinstead), M Pearn (Gloucester City), S Archer (Slough). Substitute used: B Barnes (East Grinstead).

Umpires: S Pal and S Cronin (both SCHUA).

(Photograph omitted)

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