Fan’s View – 2019/20 – Doncaster away

Article by Paul Beasley Thursday, January 2nd, 2020  

DONCASTER ROVERS 1 OXFORD UNITED 0

This result came as no surprise to me. We’re currently not scoring many goals nor letting many in. The mostly likely outcome of any match we’re involved in is a goal-less draw or 1-0 either way. We’ve failed to hit the back of the net in three of our last six league games but also kept a similar number of clean sheets.

Other than perhaps Southend there’s not that much separating teams near the bottom of the table and those, like us, in the upper echelons.  MK Dons have already shown us this and for example Accrington have proven that on their day they can turn anyone over. They’re 17th.

Having beaten us Donny are now 15th and have two games in hand. Six extra points would put them just two behind us.

As the lower and mid-table teams beat those at the top there’s an inevitable bunching up. This makes for an interesting and competitive division but it is just as easy to tumble down the table as it is to shoot up it.

Once you are at the peak it is very easy to be shot at. I’m really pleased with how we have performed overall so far this season but cannot go with this bookies favourites/best team in the division thinking. It is way too tight for that and there are so many fine lines.

If Matty Taylor’s header had gone in instead of coming back off the post we’d obviously have come away with a point. By the same token if John Akinde had scored for Lincoln instead of hitting the frame of our goal we would have dropped two points on Boxing Day. Points wise a win and defeat is clearly better than two draws so we take this and move on. The rub of the green will not go our way every time. There’s a bit of an argument that we got away with it against both the Imps and Wycombe. We didn’t here.

I thought we still performed pretty well but also that Donny handled us effectively and played the game in the right way throughout.

My impression was that this was a match with few clear cut chances. They put one away, we didn’t. Like most goals conceded this one was very much preventable. The hosts were knocking the ball around well and keeping possession with our entire team back in the defensive third. As is the way with modern football, with the obsession of full-backs tucking in when defending, Chris Cadden was to be found nearer the penalty spot rather than patrolling the area a little wider into which Donny defender Reece James had snuck. I’d also question whether the first time shot should have been stopped by Jordan Archer.

This was CC’s last appearance as parent club Columbus Crew have recalled him. It’s a shame he didn’t go out on a high, as he has been a real positive, but his crossing wasn’t as good as it has been and even at his best there are those that thought improvement was required.  I think that’s harsh because whenever the stats on crossing accuracy pop up they never seem to be that high.

Here the record keeper noted that we got in 33 crosses with 27% being deemed accurate. I have no idea what the definition of “accurate” is. That figure astounded me. As did lots of the other stats. I hadn’t realised at the time that we had been so dominant (if that’s the right word).

We had 67% possession and made 622 passes to their 302. Our passing accuracy was way better too, 85% to 67%. Doncaster had just four shots all game with two of those on target. We had 22 with four on target. Therefore 18 were off target which is poor. To be honest I didn’t think we really stretched Timothy Dieng the Rovers keeper. He was very confident and came and caught most balls with relative ease. That may well be down to poor delivery of course.

Perhaps also we were shooting for the sake of it and just giving away the ball away although those possession stats probably say otherwise.

None of those in a yellow shirt played terribly but none was able to produce that little bit of magic that would have given us a point, or even all three. Shandon’s traction engine remained garaged, Tariq Fosu’s dribbling is no longer quite enabling him to slalom through on goal, and Taylor hasn’t scored a league goal since Southend away with little being created for him.

The truth is we’re there or thereabouts. As I said after the setback at MK, we’re a decent team. We don’t become bad overnight.

It goes without saying that transfer activity, now that the window has re-opened, will have a huge influence on where every team ends up in the ratings come May time. We’ve been told that no-one is going to leave. There has to be the obvious caveat that well yes of course they would if silly money were offered and possibly also that we wouldn’t want any player here who didn’t want to be.

So Cameron Brannagan is not off as the doom merchants would have us believe the instant it was known he was not in the squad. If he’d been fit and played at the Keepmoat I think our chances of winning would have been greatly increased. I rate him that highly.

Cadden obviously needs to be replaced as there should be genuine competition for every position in the first team. However all players are replaceable, that’s just a fact of football life. Once they are gone I find it easier to find fault and think/hope that we can do better. CC was very one footed.

Karl Robinson has said that we will be stronger after the window is once again shut. We are supposedly going to bring in some full-backs and also a pacey winger.

We’re likely in for the most tense and intriguing second half of a season for quite a few years and this is with the best team we’ve had in decades. Just remember we’re L1 now, not L2 or Conference. Throw that in and comparisons just don’t stand up, and that’s not intended in a disrespectful way to the players that got us back into the Football league and then up again to the level we are now at.

Doncaster is one of those places where visitors like ourselves are made to feel most welcome and the hospitality in the town’s (real ale) pubs is second to none. Whilst acknowledging that it is not the most plush of places, once you throw in the choice and quality of beer as well this is now one of my favourite away locations.

The first pub visited, the Leopard, does a 10% CAMRA discount. We arrived here just gone mid-day. There were already other Oxford fans in there. Other than the result the other negative of the day, which soon passed, occurred as we headed towards the next establishment on our list from the GBG. A local who had stepped directly into fairly fast moving traffic on West St causing a screeching of brakes took exception to one of our party giving his opinion.

Yellows in the Little Plough

There were Oxford fans in the Little Plough and although no CAMRA discount, it was even cheaper than the first round. The Acorn Barnsley Bitter was superb. The landlady asked where we were off to next and when we said the Doncaster Brewery Tap (DBT) she told us that she thought it was closed as they were shutting down for a fortnight. Some yellows had already headed to the DBT. “Better order a few more pints of bitter then”, we reasoned. We then got a phone call saying that the DBT was in fact open for custom after all.

We told the landlady she was a good salesperson. She was apologetic.

We crossed the road from the Plough and then stood around trying to work out the route to the DBT. Before we knew it the landlord of this fine historic pub, spotting that we looked a bit lost, had come out to join us and give directions to a rival drinking hole. Marvellous, not something you come across every day.

In the DBT we got talking to the owner and in conversation we learned that there are plenty of away fans like us from other teams who follow the real ale trail from the GBG and end up in his premises. Never any trouble from us types he said and informed us that the police recognise this. He asked where we were off next (this was becoming a theme) and unprompted drew us a little map to get us to Hallcross. He also even nipped outside when I, having held the drawing upside down, set off in the wrong direction. We were soon put right. What thoughtful and helpful sorts there are around.

Meeting people from other towns and cities is all part of the day out and makes following a football club so very special as is travelling and hooking up with the fellow yellows I’ve got to know over the years. It’s amazing what Oxford United discussions/debates/arguments we’ve had and will continue to have. It just passes the time as we eat up the many motorway miles. “So what do you think is our all- time best XI”, someone asked. Although we never came to a consensus (that was not going to happen) we were in South Yorkshire before we knew it. Two strikers? Has to be John Aldridge, and who? Must be Billy Hamilton. Hang on, he never scored an away goal for us. Centre-forwards are there to score goals. No they’re not. Yes they are. There’s more to it than that. We discuss Jamie Mackie and Ryan Taylor, not as being in that team but for the roles they play. What about Paul Moody as Aldo’s partner? Then when we thought we were getting somewhere one of us remembered Hughie Curran. We really could talk about football for ever.

Happy New Year to everyone. Here’s hoping 2020 is extremely kind to you all.

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