Jacob Golub reports on Oxford United’s victory over Cambridge United in a testimonial match to club legend Joey Beauchamp.
Oxford United fans awoke on the 19th of February to the sad news that Yellows legend Joey Beauchamp had died. Beauchamp played as an attacking midfielder for Oxford United across two spells during the nineties. He scored 80 goals in 428 appearances, making him the fifth-highest goalscorer in the club’s history. His local Oxford roots enhanced his unique relationship with the fanbase, who have woven his chapter of the club’s history into folklore and voted him as Oxford United player of the 1990s.
Oxford United played a testimonial game for Beauchamp in their home league fixture against Cambridge United this Saturday in light of this devastating news. However, quite contrary to the club’s mood, it was a beautiful sunny day and provided perfect conditions for a football game. An astounding crowd of 10,004 fans showed up for the testimonial game, including many students spurred on by the university rivalry.
The game began as a tale of two weak defences, as both sides struggled to deal with route one long passes. Oxford’s plan A was to pull the Cambridge centre-backs out of position with a simple ball over the top, which goalkeeper Jack Stevens obliged with some impressive distribution from deep. However, Cambridge striker Sam Smith gave the away side the lead due to Oxford’s defence failing to clear their lines. It was a poor display of defensive coordination, and the Yellows continued to struggle with winning headers in vulnerable positions.
Oxford were cumbersome in possession, frequently misplacing midfield passes and giving Cambridge opportunities to break in numbers. The tension was palpable with the away fans raring to go, and the home support now quietened. The chant “is this a library?” was a valid question.
Oxford managed to get back into the game in the 34th minute after a beautiful passage of play. A glorious dummy pass from Sam Baldock allowed Matty Taylor to pounce from close range seconds later. This massively lifted the crowd spirit and provided the shot in the arm necessary for Oxford to play confidently in the rest of the game.
The second half was far more eventful. It was initially Cambridge who regained the lead due to a miscommunication in Oxford’s backline that allowed them to counter at pace. Smith capitalised to score his second of the day, quite against the run of play. But this did not faze the Yellows, as they gave a much-improved performance to tighten up at the back, press hard from the front and punish Cambridge for their shaky defence. They responded with three more goals and wrapped up the three points for themselves.
Cameron Brannagan continued his fine goalscoring form by helping himself to a brace from periods of sustained pressure from Oxford. Baldock also clinically slotted home for the Yellows thanks to a delightful cross from Mark Sykes. Sykes worked tirelessly throughout the game to combine beautifully with wing-back Ryan Williams on the right flank and was rewarded with a standing ovation from the home support. It was also a momentous day for Williams, who struggled with his defensive duties but provided some impressive skill to unlock the Cambridge defence. He earned himself two assists and the man of the match award.
This will surely be a day that lives on in the collective memory of this football club as a day that united the city in tribute to Joey Beauchamp. To stand tall in the face of adversity is a test of one’s character, and the Oxford United football club demonstrated heaps of it. The team played in his honour and ultimately delivered a performance and result that he would have been proud of.
Photo Taken by Jacob Golub