Fan’s View 18/19 – no.15 – Luton at home

Article by Paul Beasley Thursday, October 4th, 2018  

Oxford United 1 Luton Town 2

Photo, Simon Jaggs

Walking around the Kassam stadium about half an hour before kick off the place felt dead. No vibe, no atmosphere, nothing to entice one inside. At the present time away supporters must be loving coming here more than they have ever done.

If you went to the theatre, or cinema, week after week and came away every time thinking that was shit, it wasn’t even worth a tenth of what it cost, you’d soon stop going. Supporting my football club is different. Some of us can’t stop attending and punishing ourselves. It feels like a sickness. But football is like nothing else.

This game is one that will be remembered for quite some time. We witnessed things that are quite rare. A referee that was very intent on penalising foul play and gamesmanship. A referee that was having none of the time wasting and actually added a huge amount of time on to the allotted 90 minutes. Truthfully I’m all for this, but bloody hell. We have been on the receiving end of such antics many times over the years where the officials, as they almost invariably are, were almost indifferent to it. So it’s incredibly annoying that when for once we actually play that game we weren’t allowed to get away with it. Credit to Michael Salisbury but also damn him. If only all referees did likewise all the time then fair dos. But they don’t and I doubt we’ll see much of it again in the future even from Salisbury. Perhaps we were just unlucky that for once the laws of the game were properly applied.

Also perhaps the reason we don’t do it very often is that we are very rarely in a position where we are defending a narrow lead with the game nearing its conclusion. Here we were just desperately hanging on to a point on our (FK’s) home ground.

To have a winner deep into added time chalked off for a push and then still get that second goal in the 98th minute was some spectacle for the travellers to get rather excited about and a dose of entertainment for the neutrals, not that it would make much sense for any to be there.

For me, I just felt it was inevitable. I was expecting it at any time and even with seconds left had no confidence we would hold out.  So for all this drama there was so much of the same old same old about another performance that left us pointless, but still not quite bottom yet.

The first 15 minutes were quite even and open with each side forcing the opposition keeper into producing good saves. I think it was Gavin Whyte who had our effort.

Then it became noticeable that Luton were that bit stronger, were having more of the ball and creating more chances than we were. The final stats showed them having 58% possession, and 17 shots of which eight were on target. There’s no doubting that Jon Mitchell was the busier of the two men keeping goal. Our shot count was ten of which just three were on target.

If the Hatters could have finished we would have been put out of our misery well before our bedtime. One particular player who looked like he couldn’t hit that barn door or cow’s arse was Pelly Ruddock. Other than that he looked some player. Powerful on the ball, hard to shake off it, often available to receive it, and rarely wasted it other than when he decided to shoot. He also popped up all over and I was amazed to see it was he at the back tidying up when we managed to clear a corner (or something) a very long way.

We’re quite often drawing at half time and for such occasions I usually come up with this stock phrase, at least we’re not losing”. That might come over as a bit negative in the way I say it but nine times out of ten in such instances I feel we’re quite lucky to be level pegging as was the case here.

For us to take the lead three minutes after the re-start was therefore a bit of a shock.  It was a marvellous individual effort from Ricky Holmes. He ran in direct fashion at pace from the centre circle with the ball under control and when he got exactly to the line denoting the penalty area let fly with meaning, cutting the ball low and hard across James Shea.

I’d not said anything as he progressed forward. It was my brother who was urging him to pass it although someone thought it was me as I’d moaned about his lack of passing earlier and was to moan again later about him losing possession when a pass was on. Here there was a player to his left who looked much better placed and according to the coaching manual for the purist that’s where the ball should have gone.  But how can you complain when we’d done something we don’t do very often and were in a position we’ve not been in very often this season? Winning.

That term though “individual” does I think speak volumes of where we’re at as a team. Of the few goals we’re likely to score ask yourself whether they will be of the type scored by RH or team goals.

Was that the spark that would lift us and would we now be able to set ourselves up as a solid mass that Luton would not be able to get through? Absolutely not. We held that lead for just eight minutes. That tells us what we are, but there again we knew already so we weren’t shocked.

Cock ups all round and lots of poor defending. Jamie Hanson lost the ball in the middle of the park. Not a new thing. But we still had plenty of chances to deal with the situation. A pass was played towards Ruddock just outside the box but it was read by Tony McMahon who slid towards the ball getting there first. His slide became a sort of scissors movement which made no proper connection with the intended foot, instead the ball coming off his other leg to be picked up by Dan Potts. He appealed for a penalty under challenge from Holmes and the standing up again McMahon. Ruddock just got on with it as Curtis Nelson and McMahon got in each other’s way as they tried unsuccessfully to prevent the cut back.  By now we had three players down in the area. That’s not much use. We now had players still standing in the six yard box. They had two too. We didn’t mark and they were even allowed the luxury of a mis-hit coming back off the bar before James Collins had the easy task of banging home.

It doesn’t matter what back four we pick the outcome is nearly always the same. We were back to the four that Karl Robinson had as his preferred options at the start of what already feels like a whole season even though we’re not yet quite a quarter in.

There’s very little if anything that our manager does or says that the fans agree with or believe in. He keeps talking about individual errors saying you can’t compensate for them and that they’re not his fault. It is he who picks those players and has brought in players who are coming up with way many more errors than we are seeing from the teams we are coming up against. Confident players would not be making those mistakes. It is up to the manager to breed confidence. That comes down to man management and we’re not hearing good things on that front. If we had more of an attacking threat with proper presence and movement up front we wouldn’t be in the position so often where we play men into trouble in midfield or indeed further back. That’s down to the manager and tactics.

Ye gods there’s so much wrong.

We need a big physical bloke at the back who can win headers. It was so effing easy for Potts to get his nut on the free-kick for the winner.

Again our strike force was an utter joke. I really don’t want to knock Jon Obika but how can you not if you are going to give an honest assessment? Someone near me said he might as well not be out there. Not in a nasty aggressive way but because it was genuinely felt.  I’d have to agree. He was outmuscled for everything. He made no runs I could spot and when I contrasted his movement with that of Ruddock I’d put the Luton man three or four levels above ours. Perhaps Ruddock could play in the Championship. Perhaps. And perhaps that’s still being kind to JO. Then to compound the daftness of the whole situation Robinson came on the radio and said something about our tactic being to play the ball in behind so we could use Obika’s pace. Luckily I wasn’t driving otherwise the car would have been in the ditch when I heard this. No wonder we’re a laughing stock is it?

Although I’ve said there was an inevitability about the result a question that has to be asked I suppose is could we have got a point or pulled off a miracle to get three if we’d kept eleven players on the pitch for the entirety?

I suppose the answer has to be possibly but the behaviour of Shandon Baptiste and more barking mad decision making by KR saw to that. Baptiste is a young lad who has just broken into the first team. He looks like a special talent but one that is a bit fiery and in need of being taken under the wing of a sensible seasoned professional. Captain was the last thing he should have been made.

The talk was constant at half time and also for the first twenty eight minutes of the second half that Robinson needed to get Baptiste off before he was sent off. His first booking was 100% justified as he pulled Ruddock’s shirt after Hanson hadn’t kept the ball. There were a few others that were close but like the Luton winner we were pretty sure it was coming. I thought he was a bit unlucky with the one he did get because the Luton player he caught was a split second quicker to the ball. There was nothing intentional or malicious in it. I’m not convinced Salisbury was going to give him his marching orders if it hadn’t been for Luton’s reaction and in particular that of Shea, who should have been carded for being a knob. (I’ll use that word and not the one the East stand did). But if it helps your side win and the ref falls for it and lets you do it then who can blame them.

By now though I thought he was really favouring them. One of our bookings, I think it was McMahon’s, was for a slight delay over the taking of a free-kick. What Salisbury failed to see, or chose to ignore, was the Luton player who had not gone back the full ten yards.

Robinson gave us some more waffle on the radio concerning his supposed thought process about the substitution that wasn’t. If I recall correctly KR said that Hanson’s head was all over the place after he had made the mistake that led to the goal so wasn’t sure whether to take him or Baptiste off. Although James Henry was stood waiting to come on when Baptiste was dismissed that was 18 minutes after we’d conceded so that bollox doesn’t wash with me.

We did subsequently make three substitutions.

On 76 minutes Jamie Mackie replaced Whyte. This one wasn’t for me. With Obika so ineffective, wtf. With us a man down a bit of pace as an outlet would make sense to me. I didn’t notice that Whyte was more knackered than Obika. Oh, yes I forgot KR thinks Obika has pace. Silly me. As for Mackie he played like he had bottled up all the aggression our front men should have shown this season but haven’t and was determined to use it all up in a matter of minutes. He set about smashing into people in street thug mode and I thought we might end up being a further man down.

A minute later Josh Ruffels came on for Hanson. Must still have been suffering from that mistake? If we took off all the players who made bad mistakes we’d soon only have a five a side team playing the game.

In the 83rd minute Obika finally departed. I clapped him but I don’t know why. I don’t think I was being ironic. On came Samir Carruthers in what was far from an ideal re-introduction after injury a few minutes into this season. With Carruthers saying he is willing to play through pain I would have thought a fully fit Henry would have made much more sense as we looked to hold out.

One last moan. As we battled (that’s a word that’s always used in these situations so I’ll use it but that’s hardly what we’re capable of) in vain to prevent a second goal going in it was noticeable how we had many players struggling to keep going. It wasn’t as if we had to play with ten men for very long so I’d argue we’re not the fittest outfit around. But fair play to Holmes who forced himself to keep going after a fashion as he locked up with cramp a few times and that as everyone will know is very painful.

A fiver has gone on Southend at 88/100. Not that I’d encourage anyone to gamble but it’s still there with William Hill. Just saying.

Sunshine for them, clouds and dark skies for us

This entry was posted on Thursday, October 4th, 2018 at 10:37 am and appears under Fan's View, News Items. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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