Fan’s View 2017/18 (no.40) Peterborough at home

Article by Paul Beasley Sunday, March 18th, 2018  

DESPONDENT

Various (so called?) fans of various clubs at various times have come out with “I am not going to watch that rubbish again whilst x is in charge” and “I am not going to give our bloody owners any of my money, I’m boycotting until they’re gone.”

I’ve never reached that stage and doubt I ever will. I’ve never given up on / with Oxford United although at various periods during my many OUFC years I have abandoned hope, at least in the short term. That though has not stopped me attending home and away, week in week out.

I don’t think I’ve felt as disillusioned as I do now since probably a couple of months into our third season in the Blue Square Premier when after a couple of months we were near the foot of the table.

It’s not just Oxford United though, it’s football in general.

As a subscriber to When Saturday Comes (WSC) I have quoted that long running “half decent football magazine” from time to time and am going to do so again here.

I’m still working my way through the March edition which came out in early February but have already consumed pages 36 & 37 of the April offering. That month’s “Team Spirit” section features Oxford United. One piece is by Piers Pennington and the other Martin Brodetsky. Both well worth a read.

PP references the Manor and tells of a time when the players weren’t regarded as celebrities but guys you might bump into in the local.  “Of course nostalgia is an integral part of being a football fan but there is a danger of adopting a reflex attitude to grumpy old gittery, an assumption that everything was better back in the day, even though you can now watch (and actually see) the game in comparative safety and comfort and observe the players for the most part trying to pass to a team-mate rather than kick lumps out of the opposition.” A lengthy sentence even by my standards but much interesting food for thought.

Our programme editor covers our dropping out of the Football League. “The second season (in the Conference) was mostly joyless. Smith resigned after a 5-0 thrashing at Rushden and Diamonds, shown live on television”. “The first half of season three was possibly the nadir of my time supporting the club, starting with a 3-0 defeat at Barrow, again shown live on TV”. Seems we’re quite in agreement here then Martin, but what’s to argue about. “As the club plummeted so did the crowds, with fewer than 4,000 at home becoming a startlingly regular occurrence. Defeats at Lewes, Forest Green, Grays and Histon ……” But later, “Alfie Potter slid the ball home to send 33,000 Yellows into raptures. If the club had lost they would in all likelihood have gone out of business, such is the fine line between success and failure”.

So that does put our current position into perspective I suppose but it’s as much what’s in the March WSC that depresses me.

Firstly there’s two articles on Supporters and the Law. One is headed “Questionable Conduct” arguing that “banning orders are often an unfair way to punish unprepared fans, cooked up between police and fans then tagged on by courts”. The other piece hit more of a nerve for me. “Harsh and degrading treatment at the hands of police and stewards remains a regular feature of the matchday experience”.  I’ll leave the police out of it because I’ve got nothing whatsoever to complain about regarding the men and women in blue. With stewards though it can be a different matter altogether. I covered the way we were treated at Valley Parade on December 30th in the Fan’s View following our defeat by the Bantams. I subsequently contacted Bradford City in courteous form detailing the way we were treated. I sent the email to their “customer care” address and also to Sandra Oram their Supporter Liaison Officer. I didn’t even get an acknowledgement let alone a reply or heaven forbid an apology of any kind. I’ve concluded they don’t give a **** and that there’s still a general feeling that somehow when one is categorised as a football supporter, irrespective of age or sex, one can be treated in a way that no right minded person would find acceptable in other walks of life. It’s all quite depressing. But again football is different to any other entertainment so I won’t walk away. I just carry more baggage and reasons to dislike certain football clubs.

And one more feature to lift from WSC: March pages 16 and 17. It’s an interview with Andy Holt, owner of Accrington Stanley, a club I have a huge amount of respect for. Holt has harsh criticism for the Football League and its chief executive Shaun Harvey. He thinks there’s something sinister going on. “Look at the current funding set-up. League One and League Two are being deliberately decoupled (from the Championship). He thinks the break-up of the Football league is inevitable with the Championship becoming Premier League 2. He said, “Everything Harvey does is led by the Premier League. Look at the Checkatrade Trophy. Look at the proposals to shorten the transfer window in line with the EPL and the abolition of FA Cup replays”.

If that’s not worrying enough I’m damn sure I read somewhere that it was Harvey who put Darryl Eales in touch with Tiger. (I can’t find any evidence of that now so it might have just been a bad dream).

And on top of all this we’re on a dreadful run of form and are limping along with the wait for the appointment of a permanent manager continuing. There’s a limit to patience.

So I wasn’t expecting what happened next.

OXFORD UNITED 2 PETERBOROUGH UNITED 1

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Something to celebrate at last. Photo, Simon Jaggs

It’s incredible how one result can lift the spirits. I’m writing this on Sunday evening and all (well not all but quite a lot) still seems right with the world.

It’s not just the three points but the battling performance that brought this first victory for six games that is producing this lasting glow of satisfaction. That and the fact that our defeated opponents are managed by Steve Evans. I’ll admit to forgetting that he was manager of the Posh until I saw his bulbous presence in the away team’s technical area. Well he was in that area for a few minutes, the rest of the time he was a law unto himself. I know it’s wrong but I just can’t shift the image of a giant fatberg from my mind.

What really impressed me was the way we got stuck in and did the physical stuff that most teams do but has been blatantly lacking from yellow shirts in many games. We weren’t dirty but neither were we squeaky clean. I’ve been waiting for such a display for weeks.

I absolutely loved the way Cameron Brannagan got stuck in. Ryan Ledson did too, as we know he can, and at the back Rob Dickie did the holding, pushing and shoving that is more often than not allowed and is therefore a basic requirement. This gave us the base from which to win a football match and almost to a man the rest did excellent jobs too.

We were helped along our way very early on when the visitors showed us on six minutes that we are not the only team that can be pretty useless at defending set pieces. In mitigation the conditions should perhaps be mentioned. It was, as those in attendance will know, not just very cold but also quite windy with omnipresent snowflakes even apparently falling from the back of the SSU. Was that enough for keeper Jon Bond to be blameless in the way he didn’t deal with the corner? I think not. The ball basically just hit Dickie and went over the line. Wes Thomas being around and in the way may have helped influence the outcome. Scrappy goal are still goals though.

Almost immediately we nearly got another that would have been anything but scrappy. Jon Obika headed a long ball back to James Henry who way outside the Peterborough penalty area took it on his chest, allowed one bounce then hammered goal-wards.  Only the post came to the beaten Bond’s rescue.

There was no denying Henry though. Just gone the hour mark Ledson fed him and on the very edge of the box he unleashed a shot with what I thought was the inside of his right foot. Instead of bending away to the keeper’s right it moved back to his left before entering the next. It kind of defied physics but possibly had something to do with the wind. It was worthy of a goal anyway just for the sheer power and the way Henry was playing. I’d agree with the sponsors in him being man of the match.

JH

James Henry. Photo, Simon Jaggs

If we thought we could now relax, we couldn’t have been more wrong. A minute later it was our turn to behave like we’d never defended a corner before. We switched off and did more pointing than marking as Peterborough took a quick one which resulted in Jack Marriott having an easy tap in for his fourth goal in three games and his 23rd in the league this season. To be honest conceding in such a way didn’t surprise me. I sat motionless in silence, the expletives coming from the woman sat to my left. She must have picked some language up from me.

That was it then, as we have no backbone we would crumble. Except we didn’t. For once we appeared made of tougher stuff. Yes the visitors had a chance or two and came very close on a couple of occasions but it wasn’t as if we got lucky or were totally on the back foot for long periods.

The back line came across as a unit who are beginning to get to know and understand each other. Dickie I’ve already mentioned and his partner, John Mousinho, was much the same as we’ve come to expect. Our captain again did some very good stuff, reading the game well and looking quite composed on the ball but with a howler thrown in for good measure. Under no pressure of note he just slashed at a ball that should have been cleared with ease. It shot upwards instead of away but we were not punished. On another day? But this wasn’t another day.

Todd Kane has obviously got away unpunished after his outburst last week. Hopefully lesson learned and I was glad to see him in the side. No knee jerk reaction from me unlike some idiot who said he should never play for us again. Passion, man. Understand the passion.

The other full back Ashley Smith-Brown for me had his best game in our colours. Not only did he get forward but did a good defensive job too, and I think that’s the first time I’ve felt able to say that.

The midfield were never over run and the slowest of the lot, Alex Mowatt, played his part too.

For once we started with two strikers. Obika did no more than okay in my opinion and yet again departed injured. Thomas was a real handful and it’s rare that can be said about an Oxford front man these days. I thought he lacked a bit of sharpness but that is unlikely to come with regular ninety minutes worth of playing time as he too went off in a damaged state again.

Our three replacements all had small parts to play.

Gino Van Kessel had a full forty five minutes to show what he can do. His performance was again a head scratcher. I don’t know if it was good or bad. There’s no doubt he’s a big strong powerful direct runner with the ball. He probably worries defenders. He won the unwanted prize of a second yellow card for Jack Baldwin in added time which helped us see out those last few minutes. Yet he fails to play what from the stand looks like the right simple obvious pass and there are times when it appears that he’s not putting the effort in when his side is not in possession.

Malachi Napa did a bit of twisty stuff without having a great impact on the game but it was interesting that he was preferred to Isaac Buckley-Ricketts as Thomas’s replacement.

Ricardinho had just a few minutes on the pitch but in that time did have the opportunity to seal matters. His effort was only just wide but if he’d been more off target the ball would probably have ended up in Napa’s path for our youngster to open his account.

In recent times I’ve looked on Peterborough as a side that likes to play good passing attacking football. What they’ve produced in the past isn’t really the Evans way. Marriott is clearly a very good forward and there are others with talent too, Marcus Maddison being another that caught the eye. I thought they looked like a football team wanting to escape from the longer ball gamesmanship approach that their new boss is coaching into them. There were glimpses of what they can do, and have done in the past, but that was getting swamped by the presence on the touch line.

There’s no doubt he comes over as being phenomenally passionate about the game but there’s no way I’d want someone like Evans as my boss. It has been said that some players like playing for him and that he is a good man manager. I really can’t see that being the case for many. Fright more like. I’ll lift another quote, this time from Journeyman: One man’s odyssey through the lower leagues of English Football by Ben Smith. “He (Evans) got within two inches of me and went ballistic. I was trying to work out, in between the shower of saliva and gesturing, what he was saying in his broad Glaswegian accent”.

I really do believe that referees are either frightened of him or don’t know how to handle him. If he instructs one of his players to go down so he can have a meeting with the team to talk tactics that’s what happens with the official powerless to prevent such an occurrence.

For the record I thought Rob Lewis was another pretty dire referee who had little control over what was going on.

I must add though that I thought Evans’s histrionics actually played into our hands. By the end of the game they had spread to his team and instead of getting on with game in the seven added minutes they were more intent on surrounding Lewis and arguing the toss. Thanks for helping us run the clock down.

Post-match on the radio Evans comes over as a rather different character. He acknowledged that we were the better team and held his hand up admitting that he got his selection and tactics wrong. That was quite refreshing to hear from a manager. He also said that we took time wasting to extremes he had never seen before. Now that is utter pish and he probably knows that.

We also need to thank him for unintentionally, or otherwise, winding the home crowd up and for the first time in quite a while helping creating a proper atmosphere. The efforts of the boys in yellow had rather a lot to do with that too.

If this is to be Faz’s last game in charge then that was a mighty fine way to sign off.

 

This entry was posted on Sunday, March 18th, 2018 at 11:13 pm and appears under Fan's View, News Items. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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