The tournament was a mixed bag results-wise, but a huge success in the way that the youngsters applied themselves to some tough games. We opened with a brilliant 4-0 win over Didcot Casuals. Narrow defeats to strong Thatcham Town, Witney Vikings and Wantage Town sides, was offset by a 1-0 win against Quarry Rovers and a fantastic come-from-behind draw against AFC Portchester, scoring the vital goal with almost the last kick.
A quick bite to eat with my wife and daughter and it was just a short drive to Playfield Road, Kennington for my second Oxford Senior League game of the season. A little background to this second versus first clash:
As a balance to this home record, Freeland could boast a superb away defensive record, conceding just three goals on the road all season. Players to watch out for in the final third were Jack Morton for the leaders, thirteen goals from fifteen games, and Athetic's James Smith who had ten goals in fourteen matches.
This was going to be the first meeting of the current season. However, last season saw both games end with home victories, 2-1 at Freeland and 2-0 in this fixture. Freeland were to end the season as runners-up to Heyford Athletic and Kennington third, five points further back.
Last year's champions, Heyford, would also be keeping an eye on this clash. Despite starting the day in 6th place and 13 points behind the leaders, they also had 4 games in hand and could yet have a say in the title run-in.
The first half of this game can be summed up in one word. Cagey. The importance of the game was not lost on either team and that was reflected in the play. They probed and they tested but neither side wanted to make a mistake. That being said, it was still an interesting game to watch as a neutral. There was not a lot to choose between the sides, as reflected in their league positions, but in my opinion Freeland looked slightly more likely to break the deadlock.
HT Kennington Athletic 0 Freeland 0. An intriguing first half with neither side able to make the opposing keeper stretch too much. With blue skies and unseasonably warm weather, no-one was heading into the changing rooms for their half-time orange so, with only a short turnaround, we headed into the second-half. You have to love the way it works in Step 7.
The goal and the reverberations of their bar stirred the KennyMen and they gamely tried to get back into the contest. After 77 minutes they were rewarded for their efforts when a mix-up in the Freeland defence presented Merola with the relatively simple task of rolling the ball into an unguarded net. 1-1
The home side, however, hardly have time to celebrate getting back on level terms before Freeland hit back with Jack Morton wriggling free on the left and cutting the ball back for McCudden to get his second goal. 1-2
Freeland's tails were up now. On 82 minutes they got their second goal in three minutes, effectively sealing victory. Danny Taylor broke free on the right and drilled a fantastic finish past the keeper. 1-3
If that wasn't enough, Freeland then grabbed a fourth goal on 85 minutes. A cross from the right was chested down by the Danny Taylor, swivelling on the ball he volleyed the ball home to make it 1-4 with his second of the game.
There was still just about enough time for Athletic to muster a really good effort when the ball was crossed from the right for their centre-forward to get in a great header that came back off the bar with the keeper beaten. Alas for The KennyMen there was not even to be that small consolation.
FT Kennighton Athletic 1 Freeland 4. Is that the end of the KennyMen title challenge? A third defeat on the bounce after they went don 2-1 to Cropredy last week and 1-0 at Launton in their previous game. They'll be looking for an immediate response when they take on Chalgrove next Saturday.
A great result for Freeland and, with Marston Saints drawing with Mansfield Road they now have a six point gap to second-placed Cropredy who have played three games more.
Ground Number: 184