Fan’s View 18/19 – no.10 – Coventry at home

Article by Paul Beasley

COVENTRY AT THE KASSAM

Sunday lunch put back for a couple of hours

I can’t remember the last time we had a kick-off put back from Saturday at 3 o’clock to midday on Sunday for the TV cameras but compared to fans of Premier League sides we’ve got it easy when it comes to the (re)scheduling of fixtures to suit Sky and BT. (Watch out for Amazon too – they won the rights to show all 10 top flight matches on Boxing Day this year.)

Recent BBC research identified that in 2016/17, of the 20 Premier League clubs, 11 would have recorded pre-tax profits without any match day income. Basically, other than creating a bit of atmosphere, spectators are not needed. Indeed they are possibly seen at best as a body of people who can be largely ignored and at worst as an irritant.

This is deemed totally acceptable by many owning football clubs because of the obscene riches the broadcasters throw their way. We’re talking billions. Although we’ll be running out onto the same pitch as Manchester City (seconds or thirds) in just over a fortnight’s time, they really belong to a different planet.

There’s little information flying around regarding TV money L1 clubs receive. I think each gets just shy of £1.5m which to be honest I think is pretty darned good provided we don’t cast our eyes upwards and become envious. Additionally any club hosting a live game gets about £30k so that’s what we’ll be pocketing for this one. That’s peanuts really because at say £20 a time you only need another 1,500 spectators through the gates to make that amount. I suspect the Sunday lunch time k.o. and option to watch on television will have knocked quite a few off the gate we would have had if we’d played it 21 hours earlier.

But there you are and at least the Sisu suffering away fans didn’t have far to travel.

Form and the temptation of the bookies

Based on our turnaround since the Accrington game, not only in terms of results but in the way we’ve played, I couldn’t resist a few quid on a Yellow victory at 6/4. I don’t think the bookies have picked up on our improvement. Most bookmakers were offering just 2/1 on us getting relegated with only Plymouth being noticeably shorter.

Before doing so it obviously makes sense to take a look at the opposition. For L1, whilst not a Sunderland, Coventry are a relatively large club, although Sisu are doing their best to emasculate them and it is likely the return to this level following one year in the bottom tier is no more than the bounce of a dead cat.

They picked up ten points from their last five games of the regular 2017/18 season to make the play-offs where they saw off Notts County and Exeter. I then heard talk of a young Sky Blue side playing fast attacking football being a real threat when they’d stepped back up a division.

That’s not how they’ve started with just one victory against bottom placed Plymouth and only three goals scored. Having looked at some highlights of their defeat at Rochdale it has to be said they missed chance after chance after chance and some of them weren’t that difficult. If they were to sort out that aspect of their game they’d be much more of a threat.  But I’m beginning to have faith in Karl and his boys as the gelling, fitness and team selection are all showing signs of improvement.

For all that we started the game with Coventry a point above us and just the Pilgrims below and I had not totally written the opposition off. They’d only let in six goals in six league games. Form can be quickly turned around but a couple of fans sat near us at Newport appeared to have ignored that fact. Looking for four worse team than us they’d all but sent the Sky Blues back down on the evidence of their Carabao cup display alone.

Cameras, (not much meaningful) action (from us) – Oxford United 1 Coventry City 2

This was the most worrying performance of the campaign so far for me. Just when I thought we’d turned the corner we produce this insipid display and remain 23rd. A win would have fired us up to at least 17th but what we produced here was nothing other than relegation football and on this evidence it seems I’ve been tricked and that Messrs Ladbroke, Coral, et al have got it right.

The game started fairly evenly with nothing much happening other than Marcus Browne running dangerously with the ball then being hacked down by an opponent who then got booked. (x2).  The closest we came in the first half was early on when James Henry hit the bar from just inside the penalty area after we’d broken sharply down the right. I’m more inclined to think that he didn’t hit it cleanly than it being a clever clipped effort. Whatever it was, the keeper didn’t read it at all.

If we’d thought that was an indication of what was to come we were very much mistaken. Thereafter we played with very little pace, or intent come to that, until we’d actually pulled one back with four minutes of normal time remaining and by then it was too little too late.

We got what we deserved. As did Coventry who, without being any great shakes, were better than us. Embarrassingly so given their league position.

As the first half wore on the visitors were getting amongst our defence a little more than we were theirs but neither team looked incisive.

The main half time thought was that fairly familiar one of, “at least we’re not losing.”  What a depressing ring that has.

Any hope of better in the second half was soon proven forlorn. If anything we were worse for most of it and Coventry were not. They must have been surprised how feeble an opposition we were for a home side in the bottom four that needed to dig deep and show fighting spirit. We didn’t do that.

What we did do was play much of our football in slow fashion with simple passes in the wrong final third of the pitch. That caused concern as we were subjected to a few Mousinho moments when we thought he’s going to lose the bloody thing.

That could be the fault of those at the back but I’d lay blame at least as much on those further up the field because I don’t remember one single run off the ball where a pass was demanded or the Coventry defence was pulled an inch out of position let alone all over the place.

Very few were on form and we just didn’t seem to be playing as a team. We weren’t working for each other or helping each other out. I only remember twice when we closed down as a unit.

Browne appeared to be playing as an individual. I’ve really admired him previously but if this is what he’s about, no thank you. Get your bloody head up and pass to a colleague in a better position than you. BETTER being the key. If he was actually getting past men without losing the ball and giving the Coventry back line a real problem then I could understand it, but he wasn’t. He’d proved he could though with those two early bookings. As he’s young I can’t do anything other than forgive him, just this once. But he’s got to learn from this. No wonder he got taken off.

Ricky Holmes and James Henry were not on their games and when the latter isn’t we rarely win (or even draw).

We might have a few elephants in the room but the biggest is lack of effective man up front. After Sunderland with his work rate I thought Jamie Mackie was getting there. That must have been an illusion on what I witnessed here. He was slow. No, very very slow.  He won nothing in the air and when there’s a lack of any other evident penetration, the option of a big man putting himself about knocking a few bits and pieces this way and that is to be welcomed. I remember him having the ball at his feet for a few seconds in the first half and laying off a decent pass but other than that, what? Have I missed something? Am I being unfair? He looks a spent force.

Sam Smith replaced Mackie with seven minutes to go. That should have happened at half time but SS has really disappointed me and I suspect most at OUFC too. Perhaps he’ll get it together soon. Otherwise we could be buggered as that leaves John Obika. When Beaks came on for Browne there were the usual “not bloody Obika” comments, as one would expect. I could not go down that route as I thought he could hardly produce worse than what a lot of those already out there were showing. Soon he’d won a header. Hurrah!  And then he scored a goal with a header from a corner. Well done that man.

Up to that point our delivery from dead balls had been run of the mill stuff. This seemed an improvement. The corner taker was Luke Garbutt who had replaced Shandon Baptiste with Josh Ruffels moving from left back to midfield.

In a game of dullness Baptiste was a shining light. He really was. Whilst senior players failed to ignite, he sparked. Showing for the ball more than most he has the ability to go past players in a way I’ve never seen before. He seems to shrink his body then squirm and shimmy past markers. When it appears he has lost the ball, he hasn’t. He’s that lively. Pity others weren’t. But the greater shame is that he went off injured. Whatever the pull was, I hope it is only of a minor nature.

His midfield partner, Cameron Brannagan, had a steady game. Steady ensures leads are preserved; it doesn’t turn a game around when so many around you are having off days.

A post-match text to Radio Oxford claimed that Curtis Nelson wasn’t interested. I’d strongly dispute that and say he was one of our better players. Not the player he was maybe, but getting there. He was caught out by the ball over the top a couple of times and once got found out by a Coventry forward, of the type we could do with, when he let the ball bounce, but for the most part I thought he did well. Mous worried me more than he has done recently and missed a second half chance from a corner that looked a bit of a sitter.

Cameron Norman got forward as he has been doing but whilst I was at first very impressed with this aspect of his game, I’m now beginning to think it is all a bit basic. Marauding but lacking tricks and guile. I think opponents will soon have this sussed unless he has a bit more up his sleeve we’re yet to see. I do love his wholeheartedness though.

Walking back to the car I was told by a fellow old git not to be too negative and highlight the positives which is our manager giving youth a chance. He’s right of course. But you don’t win anything with kids. Can they keep you up though?

Having spewed the match stuff out over a few beers I’m now inclined to try and put a positive spin, in a clutching at straws way, on this debilitating result.

Their first goal was a lucky deflection. That said the way Mous turned away from the shot was asking for trouble. None of this putting your body on the line for the cause.

And the penalty? People have been critical of Jon Mitchell for coming and not getting there. I’m not so sure. I think he may well have gathered the ball had not Jordan Shipley thrust his studs, chest height, at the ball. Very possibly a case of dangerous kicking, or whatever the technical term is. I think this may well have been excluded from any debate because we’ve accepted we deserved nothing based on what we did in that ninety or so minutes.

My criticism of Mitchell is the blindingly obvious one of his distribution. I think he is a good technical keeper with excellent positional sense and when he makes his mind up is able to come and claim dangerous high balls. He did well to use his body to block a couple of Coventry efforts.

Ownership and money stuff

Following the last FV a Sunderland fan got in touch and pointed out that “the parachute payments Sunderland are due will go directly to Ellis Short the former owner to cover payment for the club. The team won’t benefit in the slightest because of these payments.” So the takeover by Stewart Donald and Charlie Methven is secured against those parachute payments (£40m ish over the next two seasons).  For the second week in a row their team failed to beat a much smaller side at the Stadium of Light and this time they had eleven men throughout to try and accomplish the task.

On the subject of club ownership and related matters I don’t think we’ve had an AGM at Oxford since May 2017, which covered the accounts to 30 June 2016. The next set were signed off on 29 March this year. Under Darryl Eales’ tenure I think we had the three or four AGM’s that should have been held but I recall some were not particularly timely. I wonder how long it will be before shareholders get to discuss the financial period that finished 14 months ago and counting.

As a (very) minority shareholder I’m interested to know who else owns a tiny part of the club. For most of us I assume it is for deep sentimental reasons. But then I looked at a list and came across the following:

Shareholding 182: G N Maxwell -100 Ordinary Shares

Shareholding 183: K F H Maxwell – 255 Ordinary Shares

Shareholding 184: K F H Maxwell – 14 Ordinary Shares

Shareholding 322: K A Cox – 200 Ordinary Shares

Shareholding 356: T J Midgely – 150 Ordinary Shares

Some or all of these names may not mean much, if anything, to a whole lot of our younger supporters but people of a certain vintage will know full well who they are. I find it slightly disconcerting that these characters have a bigger piece of my football club than I have and that many totally dedicated fans of many years who would dearly love a share or two have never had the opportunity to get their hands on any.

I wonder if these listed people who moved on from having anything to do with OUFC many many years ago are aware they still have these shares.

And finally here’s another one that caught my eye, shareholding 204: Nuffield College – The Wardens and Fellows of – 50 Ordinary Shares.