Fan’s View – 18/19 – no.45 – Rochdale away

Article by Paul Beasley Wednesday, March 13th, 2019  

ROCHDALE 0 OXFORD UNITED 0

Would we have scored if we were shooting at two goals?

Looking out of my window at mid-day it was pouring down and the wind had knocked over all four of our dustbins. There were yellow weather warnings for the Greater Manchester area and it really was one of those times when I thought I’ve got to be mad. It was also my turn to drive and I know what a bugger the motorways around Manchester are even before rush hour. And it’s not as though our football club has given us much joy on our travels this season.

We were nevertheless in the Baum not long gone 5 o’clock so perhaps life wasn’t quite so bad after all. This is still one of the best pubs around anywhere but not for the first time I had to restrict myself to four halves of not very strong ale as I would be behind the wheel again in about four hours. That didn’t matter though the choice and quality was superb. Our party usually comes across other similar minded Oxford fans in such establishments, but not here. Perhaps not surprising as only 251 travelled. That’s the lowest in the league this campaign and was even 60 fewer than were at Accrington. A sad indictment but understandable.

A draw was the most we deserved from this and the same can be said of our opponents too. If we play them next season in the league I very much suspect it won’t be at this level.

None of our players had a bad game but except for one who was absolutely outstanding we had no similar heroes at the other end of the pitch, or even in midfield, to gain us the extra two points.

We talk about fine margins and almost being there – well some of us do – but this can’t be down to not getting the rub of the green time and again. We’ve got some good players, there’s no doubt about that in my mind, but not a good team. Clearly something is wrong. The balance and blend are not right and the current manager and coaching staff are not getting the best out of what they’ve got at their disposal. Given the squad we now have, other than Shandon Baptiste and Robbie Hall, everyone else who I would expect to be challenging for a starting place is now available for selection.

The man who was head and shoulders above anyone else was our ex-captain and without him I think we would have been beaten. It hurts to think what transfer fee Curtis Nelson would command in the summer if he were not a free agent. It’s also painful to consider our back line without him.

He’d already got in some meaningful tackles when it looked as though the Dale had broken through into the left hand side of our penalty box. We’re in trouble here I thought until Nelson came gliding across and timed a tackle to perfection. Penalty yelled many of the 2080 home fans in attendance not understanding anyone in L1 could have so much quality and take the ball so cleanly in such circumstances.

The report on the BBC Sport website described the first half as dire. True, I’ve seen a lot better, but I think that’s being somewhat unfair. If you look hard enough you can find bits and pieces that had some value and then there’s the conditions that provided the backdrop. Lots of rain and the forecast wind was noticeably playing its part. In such circumstances all participants deserve some credit. Yes, I know it’s their jobs, but come on have a heart.

Ahmed Kashi was moving the ball on first time and that’s something we’ve been missing. He put Gavin Whyte in on a few occasions. Once Whyte sprinted past Joe Bunney and fed James Henry who was pointing where he wanted it before forcing Andy Lonergan to pull off a save and then in similar circumstances Henry was the decoy and Whyte’s shot deflected away for a corner.

We also hit the frame of the goal twice in the first forty five minutes.

On the prompting of Jamie Mackie we took a quick free-kick to Henry who bent a ball into the area. Marcus Browne slid in and connected but probably not with the leg he intended. It went all along the ground before touching the post and going wide with Lonergan motionless.

The bar was struck by a towering Nelson header from a Cameron Brannagan corner. This was encouraging.

Rochdale also came close to having a goal on the scoreboard before they went in for their cuppa. The 50 yard pass played by Dale no.3 Kgosi Ntlhe was either a complete fluke or one of the best I’ve ever seen. He bent it with the outside of his left foot and completely dissected our defence putting a possibly off-side Ian Henderson in on goal. This guy is a scorer, he’s got 16 in the league this term. Time to worry. Henderson played an inviting pass to Brad Inman who must have thought he’d scored when he hit it. He hadn’t counted on a wonder save from Simon Eastwood. Our keeper’s reactions in getting down low to his left and leaning back to stop the ball as it had just gone past him will take some beating and not only that but he got up to block the follow up. Top, top goal-keeping.

There were further chances in the second half but no-one on either side was able to deliver the decisive blow.

Jordan Williams got away from Josh Ruffels, who had a little shirt pull that thankfully wasn’t penalised, before having a shot which required a much more routine save from Eastwood.

In the 70th minute we squandered a golden chance. A battling Browne came away with the ball before finding the ever available Henry who push it on to the rapidly advancing Whyte. Our Northern Irishman was in an ideal position to hit the target. In keeping with our shooting of late he put it wide. The reaction of Mackie, Browne and Henry was a telling one. It basically said wtf were you doing? For all Whyte’s skill he really has to improve this part of his game, and crossing too. He’s still very new to this level. He needs to be coached intensely in these parts of his game but how much faith do we have in KR, SD and DF improving him in this way?

Jerome Sinclair did well in bringing down a Long long ball and getting an effort away which Lonergan had to deal with.

It had then looked like we were to come undone again as the game moved to a conclusion. Henderson having got away seemly only had to keep running towards goal and slot the ball past Eastwood. There were no yellow shirts in sight until somehow Nelson made up yards and saved the day.

There was to be one last shot from Henry and that was it. This was well hit but always going wide even though Lonergan thought fit to get a little touch.

So another blank and whilst we weren’t awful I’d argue that we have to do better than this to avoid the drop. My mate Mark though, who has a more positive outlook than me, pointed out that if we maintain the form we’ve shown over the last three games for the remaining nine we will survive. That will mean three wins, three draws and three defeats giving 52 points. Even with that kind of thinking still very tight and we are going to have to have achieved that tally before Luton away for the sake of our health.

But if we can’t beat a team like Rochdale who are below us it’s a pretty poor old show.

On the way into Rochdale I took a wrong turning and ended up approaching the ground from a direction I’m not used to and parked on a road I don’t usually. Afterwards I headed back to where I thought I’d left the car.  Having walked completely in the wrong direction for a couple of minutes Mark questioned my bearings and I realised the error of my ways.

This was all a bit like our season, getting lost, following the wrong route and not knowing where we’re going. Someone needs to point this out to Tiger and ensure he listens. Perhaps it’s already happened and perhaps there’s a huge amount going on behind the scenes that we don’t know about which gives a clear map for survival and route for forward momentum in 2019/20. Or perhaps not.

Next though back to the Kassam where we face another team below us, and there aren’t many of them.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, March 13th, 2019 at 10:12 pm and appears under News Items. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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