Fan’s View 2020/21 – No.14 – FA Cup Round One

Article by Paul Beasley Monday, November 9th, 2020  

SEASON 2020/21 – FAN’S VIEW No.14 – FA CUP ROUND ONE

Pre-match thinking – Should we be bothered?

How bothered should we be about this tie in the greater scheme of things? Prize money has been reduced which is understandable given that the F.A’s income stream has been hit with no spectators being able to pay to watch the national team at Wembley.

Last season the reward for a first round victory was £36,000. This season that figure is down to £16,972 and there’s something new in that the defeated side also pick up a few quid, £5,657 to be precise.

A second round win in 2019/20 brought in £54,000. This time it is down to £25,500 with the losers getting £8,500.

Given that there’s no money coming through the turnstiles and little prospect of that changing for an age, I’d say we should be very much bothered. There’s also the fact that it’s still a professional sport and the reason for taking part is to win. Go as far as we can, hunt for glory and register in the national consciousness. Sadly even if we progress there will be no Newcastle away this time and what a weekend that was.

As each day goes by I’m missing these live events more and more but similarly I’ve become more accustomed to the here and now of iFollow football.

Listening to KR’s comments he clearly wants to win the game but the League takes a sizeable precedence over this competition with fringe players likely to be given centre stage.  Sometimes that can work on two fronts. It allows those players to prove that they have what it takes, or shows that they haven’t and also gives the regulars who have dragged tired limbs through games twice a week the opportunity to re-charge. Darren Ferguson will no doubt have the same thinking. Peterborough are the L1 form team having won eight and drawn one of their last nine games in all competitions. That suggests the cards he holds trump those in Karl’s hand.

And other things to think about

Free-agents – What’s happened here? KR was so keen to get one in the building a week ago? That can happen any time of course but meanwhile we’ve got a space for someone 21 and above going begging in the squad and with the injuries we’ve got that leaves us very short. The re-opening of the transfer window isn’t that far away time wise but in terms of the number of games to be crammed in between now and January it looks way off. Are we planning ahead? I hope so because I think we should be able to do a bit better than we did last time around.

Shares – On the Price of Football Podcast last week one listener asked a question regarding football club owners having stakes in other clubs. Apparently it is possible for an owner to have a stake of up to 10% in as many other clubs as they want, provided they can buy the shares of course. What prompted that question was the listener having watched some episodes of “Sunderland ‘Til I Die” where Stuart Donald said he owned 10% of Oxford United. I’d completely forgotten that, assuming that Tiger and his mates held about 98% or some such figure. 10% gives no power whatsoever though when an individual holds the majority. It’s all down to the love of the club. Like with my 10 shares.

Project Big Picture – All the issues this is concerned with have not gone away even if it was rejected. Worryingly it subsequently emerged that the big bad villains are not just Ed Woodward (Man Utd) and John Henry (Liverpool). In fact bigger fingers can be pointed at Greg Clarke, Chairman of the FA and Bruce Buck, Chelsea Chairman. It was Clarke who initiated the whole process back in January meeting first with Buck before then getting the Red powerhouses involved. I doubt Clarke gives a stuff about EFL clubs, particularly the smaller ones.

Project Real Football Pictures – I’ve been drawn to football related photographs for many years. Some really catch the eye. The old black and white ones that seem 100s of years old. Thousands upon thousands of men in flat caps crammed onto terraces with others hanging off floodlights and perilously perched on rooves to get a better glimpse of the action. And the more modern ones too. Stuart Clarke started it and he’s produced some iconic historical records. The coming of the digital camera meant we could all dabble if we wanted but to do it properly one has to concentrate so much on the peripherals when a game is taking place. That would never be for me. Best leave that to the professionals. “When Saturday Comes” have people who take very interesting photographs that capture the essence of football. One grabbed my attention a couple of months back. It was a split second before it registered where it was taken. It now features as the front cover of the 2021 WSC calendar. I’m tempted to buy one, especially as the magazine are struggling a little bit financially.

Oxford United 1 Peterborough United 2

I wasn’t as disappointed in the result as I perhaps should have been and this wasn’t only down to the FA Cup not being this year what it usually is. For much of this game we played well and that gives hope for the future especially as we were up against the side topping L1 and, as we’d been told, did not pick our strongest starting XI. Neither did Posh of course.

We again let in two but our shape was much better than earlier in the season and we weren’t getting unpicked all the time. We had 55% of the possession and 18 shots, seven of which were on target. The visitors had four on target from nine. We lost because of two individual errors. That’s part of the game and when mistakes are made against good sides you get punished and deservedly so. Therefore I’m not going to argue that we were unlucky. Or perhaps I will where Peterborough’s opener was concerned.

From the off they came at us and with the game not yet ten minutes old had produced three efforts on our goal. When we had the ball we showed some urgency but we didn’t have it very often. It was all Posh.

We had our first attempt in the eleventh minute, an Elliott Moore header from a free-kick and Olamide Shodipo was proving a real handful down our left flank. Peterborough were however keeping the ball better than us even as our threat began to increase.

Around about 20 minutes in a Mark Sykes shot was saved by Christy Pym and Robbie Hall really should have done better from the rebound.

Not long after this from a good attacking position we went behind. Shodipo, who had vacated the left temporarily to receive a short corner on the other side nutmegged a defender close to the by-line and there was that “we could be in here” feeling. Instead of making the most of it and staying on his feet he went down really easily under a challenge. There were penalty appeals but if we’d had one given against us for a similar incident I would have been far from happy. Moments later they’d played a long ball into our half. The talented Siriki Dembele was in an offside position beyond Josh Ruffels. Ruffs tried to play the ball but only succeeded in letting it come off his body and directly into Dembele’s path. If he’d dealt with it effectively there would have been no debate about whether the goal that resulted should have stood under the latest laws of the game and interpretation thereof.

Patrick Bamford, someone who is recognised as being a bit cleverer than your average footballer, had a goal ruled out in Leeds game at Palace because part of his arm which he’d used to point where he wanted the pass playing was deemed to be offside. In an interview afterwards, although not best pleased, he was quite restrained but admitted that he did not know what the “rules” were because they keep changing. I have to confess I don’t either. I’d go as far as to say that currently some of the laws of the game are barking mad and they’re getting unnecessarily tangled up in the VAR debate. Not that we’ve got VAR. If we had it would the goal have been disallowed?

Question – Are you a fan of VAR? My answer 100% yes.

Question – Is VAR spoiling football? My answer 100% yes. That’s because of the ludicrous way it is being used. It really could be a force for good but it is anything but. I’ll come up with a conspiracy theory here – Could this all be deliberate to ensure that the baby gets thrown out with the bathwater?

We though have neither baby nor bathwater. Or a game in the second round.

So it’s just back to the laws of the game. I thought that if a player was in an offside position and received the ball or made an effort to go for the ball he had committed an offence and should be penalised. I also know that a player receiving the ball when an opponent last touched it is not off-side although they can be in the period prior to that opponent getting a touch. And there’s the thing about whether they’re active or not.

So what was Dembele up to? I had to study “Law 11” which is about as clear as mud. There’s lots of it.  “A player in an offside position at the moment the ball is played or touched* by a team-mate is only penalised on becoming involved in active play by: (amongst other things) “challenging an opponent for the ball”.  Did Dembele challenge? Or did the linesman think he wasn’t even beyond the last man?

When the laws are changed and understood, players adapt to them. Goal kicks not now having to leave the penalty area being a prime recent example. So, if the opening goal was legit how about this – leave a player way off side in a goal hanging position just like we used to do at school or in a five a side game or walking football (you know who you are) and whack the ball forward from the back but making sure it gets a deflection off an opponent on the way.

We obviously felt aggrieved and that showed in our play but when we reigned that in a bit we were definitely the better of the two teams. Free-kicks looked like they might be fruitful and one that was dropped over the blue back line was sent over the bar by Taylor. Very difficult to pull off with the ball coming over the striker’s shoulder but he’s got the capability of converting these type of chances.

Shopido had a decent shot go wide and it was either “only a matter of time before we score” or “it’s just not going to be our day”. For a while it was our day and no surprise that the equaliser, when it came in first half added time, was from a free-kick. Anthony Forde’s delivery is one potent weapon. When Peterborough were unable to clear in a crowd of players Ruffels was on hand to despatch.

In the remaining seconds before the break we really went for it. Marcus McGuane nearly made it 2-1 but if he’d passed to Taylor instead of seeking the glory himself I don’t think there would have been any “nearly” about it.

When put under pressure the Peterborough defence looked very vulnerable and I thought that meant the omens were good for the second period. That wasn’t how it worked out though as Posh upped their game after the re-start. We wasted a free-kick, which thankfully now is a rarity and Sam Long had to rush back and ensure the damage done by a Peterborough breakaway was nothing worse than a corner.

We became more wasteful again and were winning fewer of the battles. Although it wasn’t the major factor, inexperienced referee Benjamin Speedie was not doing us any favours and was one of those who seemed to be very inconsistent in what he considered to be fouls and what not to be.

Jack Stevens, who projected an air of confidence and can’t be faulted on either occasion the ball got past him and into the net, became busier. He had to put an effort from the Peterborough Taylor over the bar and come rushing a very long way from his goal to clear.

What we needed was everyone to now be playing a big part but it was unfortunately going the other way a bit with some fading somewhat. We were seeing less of Shodipo who unjustly was carded for diving in the box in the 53rd minute when he didn’t appeal and had possibly just got clipped. And being honest Hall did not grab the chance Robbo had given him. At times the game looked half a yard quicker than he was.

With the midway point of the second half approaching another error cost us. McGuane, facing his own goal on the edge of the area, tried to take a touch. That touch wasn’t good enough and he was robbed and then with the help of a lucky deflection we were behind again.

Although we didn’t have much of a zip about us to our credit we kept going and did our best to drag ourselves level again. A Ruffels back-heel went just wide and swapping our Taylor for Sam Winnall introduced a different goal-machine, one that unfortunately hasn’t fired much in recent years. (Nine goals in the previous three seasons). Here he never got a sniff.

There was a period though when Posh just kept the ball and whilst not going flat out to get a third, because there was no pressing need, adding to their total wasn’t out of the question. There was a miss from Mo Isa after the impressive Forde had not played to the whistle. Our right back for the day currently has to be one of the first names on the team-sheet for the games that matter. As was said on Radio Oxford the question is what position does Robinson play him in?

In the final reckoning we fell short and the attempts on goal were mostly tired ones although Shodipo did briefly from time to time find a bit of life. However, If we had somehow drawn level for a second time it was hard to see a team that looked a bit knackered successfully negotiating a further thirty minutes.

He might have only been on for a quarter of an hour but Joel Cooper was another whose performance was a bit of a let-down. I recall him having the ball and turning back in to trouble, which is a cardinal sin, and also hitting a poor shot when he should have been full of energy and at least stung Pym’s palms.

Liam Kelly did okay but I can’t see that he’s played his way into the league XI. I assume there will be even greater experimentation in the Papa John’s at Walsall on Tuesday night.  Dylan Asonganyi, Derick Osei Yaw, Nico Jones, Michael Elechi and the like?

When it’s back to proper action in a week’s time at home to Donny, fitness permitting, I’d expect to see Sean Clare, Alex Gorrin and James Henry back in at the expense of Hall, Kelly and McGuane. And Shodipo edges it over Dan Agyei for me.  Simon Eastwood will be back but if JS was to be between the sticks it wouldn’t worry me.

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