Fan’s View 2017/18 (no. 33) Bury at home

Article by Paul Beasley

Pre- match thoughts on our opponents

Pre-season Bury splashed the cash. We’d supposedly offered Chris Maguire a good deal but Bury bettered it. They brought in Jermaine Beckford and plenty of others.

I don’t rate Lee Clark as a manager and doubted he would get the best out of Maguire. Clark was sacked on 30 October with Bury second bottom.

Chris Lucketti took over but he too was booted out a few days ago taking with him a shameful record. Under him they were knocked out of the FA Cup by Woking and the Checkatrade by Fleetwood. They played seven league games and lost six of them. (They did beat Shrewsbury though). They have not scored in 664 minutes of league football. Has a team ever visited Oxford with a worse record?

Beckford has not played since October and is out injured for the season. Maguire now just gets a few minutes as sub here and there.

One Bury FC forum has a thread entitled “wasters” listing most of the players including Maguire. On another thread there’s this comment, “I’m not getting excited because Maguire had a decent 20 mins against a Fleetwood reserve team.  For 5 months he’s been a complete waster, and he’s not the type of player we need in our predicament IMO.”

We shouldn’t overlook the fact Joe Skarz and Phil Edwards are with the Shakers too. With those two you couldn’t get further from big time Charlieness. Which indicates there’s something very wrong at Gigg Lane. And to think some are of the opinion that we have big problems.

Skarz has hardly played this season although he did start last week, whereas Edwards didn’t although he is usually in the team.

When’s the best time to play a team? It’s generally recognised that it’s not when there is a new man, or in this case two men, in charge. It’s also considered that a team arriving with such a horrendous record brings with it huge banana skin pressures. To lose to that lot would bring massive embarrassment and whilst I’m not (currently) a Pep outer, what he’s achieved so far has left him vulnerable to those baying for his blood.

What I think our approach to this game should be is to forget about Bury’s managerial change and form, instead focusing on what happened in late September when we went to their place. I described our performance there as being somewhere between poor and awful and noted that we crumbled after letting in the first. That needs putting right and I feel the few of us who travelled to Greater Manchester for that one are owed something.  It should come down to pride too. Bury’s players may be labelled wasters by some of their fans but if there were wasters that night it wasn’t them.

Oxford United 1 Rock Bottom Bury 2

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One of the sponsors discovers the centre spot. 

When we got back home just before 6 o’clock Mrs FV said to me why don’t you have a weekend off (from writing an FV) and just say that we were s**t. Very tempting but there are things I want to say.

The walk back to Sandford was in almost complete silence. I couldn’t bring myself to put my earpieces in to listen to Radio Oxford. I was stewing.

S**t indeed but I will be getting next weekend off because of our s**tiness. We were s**t against Port Vale so out of the FA Cup we went at the first time of asking. Humiliated. Wigan who would have been our opponents on 27 January instead will be entertaining West Ham in the 4th round. They’re not s**t. We of course played s**t when the Latics came to Minchery Farm.

Horrible performances under Pep’s watch are stacking up. It never happened like this under Mapp. Once Mapp had sussed it we went forward. As a team at present we’re going backwards. I don’t know enough about the behind the scenes stuff to comment on whether the same can be said about OUFC as a club.

When teams are not playing well it’s often asked if the manager has lost the dressing room. Are the players playing for the manager? I often think it is as much, if not more, to do with the players knowing or believing in what they are being asked to do.

My mate said he can see what we’re trying to do but doesn’t think we’ve got good enough players to do it. We constantly gave the ball to men surrounded by opponents. We constantly ran into a gathering of opponents who must be laughing at how easy we were to mug. For the most part we did all this slowly and with no width on the right which meant we just didn’t stretch Bury’s defence.

Has Pep lost the fans? Some without a doubt, yes because there are some who look for every negative the minute a new bloke walks through the door. Me? Pep hasn’t lost me because he never truly had me. I wait and think I give any man a reasonable amount of time in whatever the circumstances may be before fully declaring myself as pro or anti. To date he has not earned my undying loyalty that’s for sure.

In the last Fan’s View I wrote, “The more I see of us this season the more I’m of the opinion that we’re neither going up nor down”.  To think we have any chance of going up is utterly laughable even with sixth place up for grabs by an outfit that are no great shakes.

I can safely say that if we play like we did on Saturday we will go down because we will not win any more games this season. However I’ll still stick with us being L1 in 2017/18. That’s based on some of the following: Wes Thomas, Joe Rothwell, Robbie Hall, Ivo Pekalski, Cameron Brannagan, Charlie Raglan and Rob Dickie.

Perhaps that’s pushing it a bit to produce a list of blokes who didn’t play, including three I’ve never seen play. Also we don’t really know if or when some will be fit and ready to perform. There needs to be some heart and battle in that lot because those currently being selected appear lacking in both departments. If we were to get dragged into a genuine relegation dog fight without those qualities we’re doomed.

I obviously hate losing but can accept it if we’ve put on a decent display. This was far from being decent. We hardly created any chances. It was tedious to watch. When we were firing under Mapp I bemoaned the fact that gates didn’t rocket and encouraged the local populace to turn up and be entertained. Now I’m not being entertained. For most of the game I’m bored rigid. It would be unfair to ask any non-diehard to turn up now and if they were to do so what’s on offer may actually put them off for life.

To my left there’s a fence and a carpark. To my right there’s some people and a sterile concrete wall. Then there’s a game of football in front of me. Take your pick, there wasn’t much to choose between the three.

At half time there was much amazement that we were a goal up. We’d scored it so I suppose we deserved it but Bury had hit the frame of the goal and had a penalty appeal turned down. Having watched MOTD, the Championship and Goal Rush I have not an inkling as to what now constitutes a spot kick, what doesn’t, what’s diving, what isn’t so I’ll say no more for now other than we shouted for one too.

For the goal we’d at least kind of gone for it and it was about bloody time. Alex Mowatt, one of our better performers, took the ball forward (hurrah!) and played a forward (hurrah!) pass to young Isaac Buckley-Ricketts whose first touch wasn’t great. In trying to dispossess him two Bury defenders got in each other’s way and allowed him to retain possession. He fed the progressing Dwight Tiendalli and for once a ball was sent low and hard and invitingly into the six yard box. (Hurrah!). We had plenty of men in the area (hurrah!) and James Henry had positioned himself well to slam home.

I thought the second period brought a marginal improvement with the occasional moment of proper football. A couple of passes were nearly threaded through but nearly is just that.

Somehow we made it through to the 81st minute still in front and I was beginning to think that we could see it out given that Bury are what they are.  That said, for periods of the game and particularly in the first half whilst they had not looked very good, it was us who a neutral would have thought was the team in 24th place.

Even if we’d taken the points I would not have been happy. Yet again we were the masters of our own downfall. It’s not as if our cock ups at the back are one offs. One offs one has to live with. What we’re now regularly seeing infuriates the fan base. We’re not unlucky we’re getting just what we deserve.

I have to say that until the last ten minutes I thought Tiendalli was probably our best player. He produced some intelligent interceptions and won a fair amount of challenges too. As soon as he played that awful back-pass to Simon Eastwood I said to Mrs FV that’s all Tiendalli will be remembered for if they score from this (the throw in not the corner, as our keeper had done well to ensure it was the former not the latter). I also said if they get one they’ll get another such is my lack of faith in the team.

The throw was just a high toss into the area. It should have been bread and butter to a competent defence as there had been no hint that the visitors had any really powerful force in the air. It was John Mousinho and Josh Ruffels outnumbering a Walsall jumper. We didn’t get the ball away and Aaron Martin seemed more intent on pushing George Miller instead of setting himself to get the ball away should it drop, which it did. Miller reacted quicker because he was concentrating on the ball. We’d produced yet another balls up.

Did we have it in us too dig deep and get the lead back? Absolutely not. Just the same as when we went behind three minutes later. There was nothing there which is how our defence could be described for Bury’s winner. A long ball down the middle which went over Mousinho’s head. It was then so easy for Harry Bunn to run onto and score without anyone bothering him.

Fair play to Bury and their long suffering supporters. Got to say though they were lucky on the day. Lucky to be playing such s**t opposition.

Our defence has now conceded 43 goals. That’s 30 more than Wigan. Only four teams have conceded more. That’s scary.

In central midfield Ruffels is way off peak form and Mowatt, whilst doing his best to get things going by showing for the ball, isn’t the sort of inspirational character that can coax a near dead corpse back to life.

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Henry, having been our best player at the Bescot Stadium was far from that here. I don’t know what caused his finger to the mouth shushing after he’d scored. That’s something a player does to fans of the other team who have been dishing out abuse. Perhaps he was aiming at a certain individual or individuals who had been particularly vitriolic up to that point. I know we’ve got some fans who are capable of such having witnessed it previously and also from trawling social media. Perhaps that made the action understandable but by doing it he did himself no favours with the fan base in general. Whilst we don’t really have a clue what pressures a professional footballer goes through, they need to look at things from a supporter’s perspective from time to time.

We pay good money to watch our team and are getting very poor value at the moment sat in a ground that chills you to the bone whatever the temperature is in the outside world and has facilities that include urinals where piss from previous games still hangs around. Yet still we turn up and pay our money. As we will time and again.

Buckley –Ricketts is an interesting but also confusing one. Eighty minutes is without question not much to go on but I’ll give it a shot. It’s one of those that could go either way. A youngster brought in who doesn’t quite cut it or sets the place alight with skill, energy and belief way above the average seen in L1. He did show a turn of pace and hence probably plenty of potential but the ball didn’t actually stick that close to him. I also couldn’t help thinking too little and too lightweight. (On that subject Jack Payne got just over a quarter of an hour in a winning Blackburn team at Fleetwood.)

Players like B-R will always show better in a winning confident side and we’re far from that. Given that he’s unlikely to be with us next season I’m wondering who’s getting the best out of the deal, whatever it is, us or Manchester City.

We were still winning when he went off to be replaced by Malachi Napa, someone even more diminutive. Our teenager wasn’t to blame for the defeat, that’s down to the seniors around him and there are plenty of those, but how well are experiences like this helping his development?

That leaves our front two. To me they looked like they’d never even met each other in training. They had no understanding of what the other was going to do. No link up whatsoever.

For all our attempts to keep the ball we did hit it long a few times particularly early on. It soon became obvious that this tactic was going to bear no fruit. John Obika and Agon Mehmeti were winning nothing and I don’t recall them once holding the ball up.

There was one long ball in the second half aimed towards Mehmeti and a defender. It was clear that if our Albanian was going to win the jump it would be a slight glance only just helping the ball on its journey. There was no way possible that it could have been a cushioned header. So what does Obika do? Instead of anticipating this and making a run forward he came back towards Mehmeti who did get the touch.

Mehmeti looked quite quick but that was about it. I noted very little football in him of L1 standard. The same could be said of Obika. There were a couple of moments but that is nowhere near enough. His dissecting of the defence with a Thomas like run was the best of those. His shot forced the talented Connor Ripley into a save but for me whilst it looked spectacular was fairly routine.

If that had gone in I doubt Bury would have come back from a two goal deficit.

Well that’s it from me for two weeks. You can stick your Checkatrade up your arse. Each to their own but if anyone within the club or amongst our fans were to try talking up this loathsome trophy to me right now given what we’re serving up in the league they’d likely get some very ripe language back. Chelsea effing U21s, a team that 24 year old £33.2m signing Michy Batshuayi has played for. But hey, it’s only a fiver and lets all get seduced by the bright lights of Stamford Bridge. What a privilege to be able to play on such a ground. Premier League I bow down to you and your great benevolence.

Seems I’m still well entrenched in grumpy old git mode well into Sunday afternoon but having witnessed what I witnessed 24 hours ago I challenge anyone to judge me.