Fan’s View 18/19 – no.18 – Bristol Rovers away

Article by Paul Beasley

BRISTOL ROVERS AWAY

Oxford United: An everyday story of football folk

On Monday 15th Oct OxVox members were informed of discussions with Tiger, Club MD Niall McWilliams and Club Director Zaki Nuseibah. The following day Tiger issued a general update for all fans.

Anyone who read my previous FV will realise I very much welcome this and it has to a certain extent put my mind at rest. With the usual caveats that Rome wasn’t built in a day (like our new training ground) and the proof of the pudding, etc.

We do have some amongst our fan base who seem to have a totally negative outlook on everything that is done or said by anyone within the football club. I don’t really know what more our owner could have said and totally get why he waited until we’d eventually got a win before coming out and saying anything.

He told us that a new member of the board is soon to be announced once approval is given by the EFL, there having been an unexpected delay with the paperwork. (Hope it does not mean this person has failed Appendix 3 “Owners’ and Directors’ Test” where there are a lot of boxes that need ticking).

As stated, a new Finance Director was subsequently revealed. Tim Davies is the name and he has previously been CEO at Leicester City and Finance Director at the Lawn Tennis Association. The previous FD was Benn Brown who joined OUFC as Financial Controller in August 2016. He’d previously worked at Orlando FC in the States. To be honest I doubt your average fan – me included – knows who holds such positions without looking it up. Again, let’s hope this is a strengthening of the behind the scenes set up.

Also going are Scott Daly and Mark Jarrett from the backroom team to work outside football. Daly is a sports scientist who came to the club just over three years ago filling the void when Alasdair Lane left. Jarrett’s role has been that of kit manager. It makes one realise how many posts there are within a football club in addition to the playing staff.

The OxVox output covered:

  • The stadium situation and the five point plan;
  • The difficulty negotiating with FK;
  • Arbitration;
  • Zaki Nuseibah taking an active role in running the club;
  • Oxford Investment Holding Pte Ltd;
  • Darryl Eales holding 9.99% of the shares but not being involved at all;
  • The breakdown of the cost of using the stadium;
  • The training ground;
  • The Manchester City post-match incident; and
  • Pitch maintenance.

Good work people. I know how time consuming and complex a lot of this stuff can get. Members will have the detail. I’d not intended this to be an advert for OxVox but why not? Those who have not got the detail can easily do so by joining, it’s not expensive.

When I say detail there’s sensibly a limit as to what can be released due to commercial sensitivity and also to ensure that trust does not break down. It’s a shame some people don’t understand this.

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Perhaps it’s just that those with the most negative of outlooks shout the loudest and post the most on social media but at times it seems to me that there are loads of them out there. I don’t think I know them personally and I have not checked for consistency in their arguments, or should I say abuse because that is often all it appears to be.

There were loud shouts that Karl Robinson had to go if we failed to beat Plymouth. I too could see that as a point of no return. We beat Plymouth, by two goals and some. The calls for the scouse this that and the other to go remained.  Plymouth were dreadful so it didn’t count for anything. (Three points perhaps and climbing off the bottom of the league?).

I’ve not suddenly become a great fan of our manager overnight; his record whilst he has been here is pretty shocking. But there are now things to hang on to which are beginning to temper my pessimism.

We’d got 4 pts from our last 2 games, hadn’t conceded, had kept the same back four and had looked much more solid with John Mousinho playing just in front of them. Players were getting back to fitness with almost all being available to choose from. (That is no longer so, unfortunately) And Jamie Mackie was putting in the type of shift up front which, short of a prolific goal-scoring type in that position, we’d been crying out for and the whole team was standing up and not getting bullied.

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On Thursday the news came out that Jon Obika had suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury that will keep him out for the rest of the season. These are really nasty injuries and whilst not being anywhere near as likely to end a career as they were 30 years ago, there’s the question as to whether future performance will be affected a year down the line.

I’d be lying if I said I thought JO has performed well enough during any of his time with us to justify a place in the starting line-up. However I would not in any way, shape or form wish ill towards him, or anyone for that matter. When I heard what had happened to him behind closed doors at Swindon all I felt was great sympathy. So I found it sickening that some of our so-called fans rejoiced in his misfortune. The foul and disgusting language that was in some cases used to express this delight and abuse another human being from behind the safety of a keyboard made me cringe.  It was somewhat heartening that some people posted on Facebook similar feelings to those I’ve just expressed and they got way more likes than the nastiness. Here’s to a speedy recovery.

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Anyway, I was confident we wouldn’t lose at Brizzle based on the following stats:

Having scored just nine league goals all season, they had the joint worst record along with Plymouth. Our tally is four greater. They had been goal-less in the previous four games. No team had scored fewer away than us though.

Defensively Rovers are a different kettle of fish altogether, being the joint 5th best in the division and they’d only let in two in those last four matches. Overall we’re much worse having leaked ten more than them.

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Bristol Rovers 0 Oxford United 0

As the trip down the M4 was trouble free we arrived in the Filton / Horfield area in such good time that our chosen establishment for refreshment, The Drapers Arms, was not yet open. So it was a half mile walk we had not intended to do to take us to the Annexe, which used to be my no.1 Rovers drinking hole. It’s still good mind, and very popular with football fans. The CAMRA discount is a bonus but however many times I’ve drunk in here I can never find the place without great difficulty.

The Drapers was also just as good as it was last season. Oh for a similar micro pub as close to our home ground as this is to the Memorial Stadium.

Given the lack of goal scoring acumen within each side and their recent respective defensive showings, it was no surprise whatsoever that the scoreboard (was there one?) required only zeros.

There wasn’t a lot to write about in what was quite a mundane affair but if it’s mundane that’s needed to put a run (of sorts) together and get us very slowly away from the foot of the table, mundane it happily is for me.

Even someone with almost no knowledge of this game we love (and hate) would have been able to deduce that we were the better team in the first half and the Pirates the better in the second. It was as simple as that.

Our attempts on goal for the umpteenth time this campaign highlighted what we have not got and desperately need if we are even to have claims to be a team sitting comfortably in mid-table. Shandon Baptiste had an effort kind of kicked off the line but it wasn’t as if we’d truly extended any defender and James Henry had a weakish shot saved. The closest we came was through a Curtis Nelson header which hit the post following a free-kick. Jack Bonham, the home side’s keeper, will have had many many more busy working afternoons than this. Nevertheless I noted that he handled with confidence, had good positional sense and was as commanding as he needed to be.

We lacked midfield creativity and did not have any player on the day looking like they could come up with a piece of individual magic to win this tight game which was all a bit disappointing given some of those representing the club. Not one of our midfielders or front men stood out. Each did a job but it all looked very ordinary. Entertaining it wasn’t.

The Pirates came flying at us immediately the referee signalled the second half was underway and having established this ascendency kept the game moving along in that mode through to the final whistle. Other than a couple of three quarter hearted breaks our goal threat in minutes 46 to 90 plus was even less than it had been in the 45 that had preceded it.

The Gas may have been controlling the game but for all that only once came genuinely close to registering a goal. This was when they too hit the frame of the goal. Simon Eastwood somehow managing to use a leg to ensure this was what happened instead of the crowd of 8,506 witnessing the rare sight of a goal. Glad to have him back.

A draw was the right outcome and for that we have to thank that settled back line. Okay, a little bit of luck is needed every now and again when it comes to keeping clean sheets but three on the spin indicates it is a lot more than luck and largely down to concentration and a tremendous amount of effort that is being put in.

Charlton at the Valley this coming Tuesday night will be a harder task than this one and as we didn’t show that we could win this relegation battle I’m hard pushed to see us coming away from the capital with anything. Our next opponents beat fancied Barnsley in their last game and have recently been averaging two goals a game. I would like to say my only hope is that they do concede too, earlier this month they shipped five at Scunny, but given our lack of goal-scoring that’s stretching it.

I’d take a horrible scrappy goal-less borefest.

Anyway at least we climbed one place and Plymouth contrived to lose once more even though they had led. If other teams keep being rather crap too then we’ll have a chance of survival.

But we’ve been struck down with injuries again and it is as though the football gods had noticed that our treatment room was almost empty and thought we can’t be having that. Obika I’ve already mentioned and he’s now another long termer with Rob Hall. Shandon Baptiste had to go off with a dislocated shoulder and we now know that this is an issue with which he is familiar. Plus Ricky Holmes has a bad back that will keep him out for seven days. What is it with us and players that are not fit? Much as I like to see Holmes in full flow (provided he keeps his head up looking to play a pass) how much football is he going to miss due to these things he keeps getting wrong with him?

So we look very light on bodies again. Not that he was playing better than Tony McMahon is now when he was last played, but where is Cameron Norman now? He’s not even been on the bench since the Walsall game. That was some time ago.

 

And I thought we sometimes over water our pitch