Fan’s View – Plymouth and Scunthorpe

Photo courtesy of Steve Daniels
Photo courtesy of Steve Daniels
Article by Paul Beasley

Plymouth
(All written prior to the Scunny game and not tinkered with thereafter)

Golden opportunity blown

It’s not the first time this has happened is it? Boxing Day. Crowd about double the norm. Family and friends brought along for ride. Some part timers dipping their toes back into the waters thinking we’re almost top, perhaps there is something to see here after all. Probably some first timers too, not quite knowing what to expect. A golden opportunity then, for the team to send these folks home gagging for more. So, what happens – we bloody well blow it.

Of course this annoys me but so do those people who spoke to Selfie on Radio Oxford after the game saying ,“ I’ve not been up for goodness knows how long but after seeing that I bloody well won’t be coming back”.

TZ000491

Marketing

We were told to take up our positions by 2:30 for the pre match entertainment. Yellow flags for the waving thereof had been placed in roughly every other seat. Although many were waved, loads were left behind for someone to clear up after the ground emptied including some that, it appeared, had not been touched at all. We had an opera singer who, although not really my thing, was very good. He started singing at 2:45 and left the pitch wearing an Oxford shirt at 15:00. We had pyrotechnics, dried ice, and a couple of big inflatable stick insect things bobbing about in the wind at the open end. We had three apprentices playing hamster to try and win some punter some Bang and Olufsen equipment.

TZ000497

You can’t blame the club for trying, and on a day like this we needed something, but I can’t help but wonder how much it all cost and hope it has come from a very different pot to that for players wages. The transfer window opens again very soon, you know.

Grumpy old git aren’t I? It’s what happens on the pitch that really matters to me. If we’d won I would have been happy if the pre-match goings on had been the local women’s guild re-enacting the battle of Pearl Harbour. To be honest though, if we’d won I would not be moaning about any of this. But moaning I am. I’m allowed; we screwed up again at home.

The match and the cast

Chris Wilder picked the most attacking team available to him and I suspect the majority of home fans were happy with the line up before the off. But for this to work it is crucial that one, if not both, of our wide men in the 4-4-1-1 have good games. Ryan Williams did okay but he is nowhere near the devastating form that he was showing a couple of weeks back.

On the left flank it is only fair to cut Sean Rigg some slack as he is just back from injury but he was poor. On his day he reminds me a bit of a lower league John Robertson (left winger for Forest, 1970-83 & 1985-86, for those not of a certain age). His game is not all about pace but beating a man or two with close control and then whipping in a decent cross. Pace of course helps too but Riggy seemed slower than before his injury and his control, particularly early on, was all over the place. I can only recall him getting away from his markers with semi-telling effect on one occasion.

The more passengers and ineffectual contributors a team has the less likely they are to win, which brings me on to Beano. Much as I love him for his 100 plus goals he frustrated the hell out of me. First there are the bloody off-sides. Will he ever learn? I could blame him for not burying the chance when he hit the bar, but won’t. It was very close but not quite over. I don’t see any intelligent movement from him that gives the defenders something to think about but worst of all he just didn’t seem to anticipate. He was never on his toes. For the most part it was a reactive performance and being a half second or so behind it all it’s easy for the defenders.

For me the best player on the park was the Pilgrim’s centre forward, Reuben Reid. I’ve little doubt that had Reid been ours and Beano theirs we would have been the victors. Right, now what’s the betting that “James Constable Oxford’s number nine” will bang in a hat-trick against Scunny and make me look silly?

What about Dave Kitson? Giver away of a penalty and now suspended? There’s talk of him retiring at the end of the season and forgoing the second year of his contract. Someone called or texted Radio Oxford saying something like, “Kitson just doesn’t want to be there”.

To me the latter point has no credence whatsoever. DK does not have to be here (one of us, a yellow). He has made enough from football before this season. He is still being paid significant money by Pompey I believe. And it’s no secret that he is intellectually on a different plane than many fellow footballers, and fans too come to that, and well capable of earning a nice little sum from a bit of writing here and there.

Retirement, well possibly. Perhaps he’s getting a little cheesed off with those around him not being on the same wavelength. In the second half he chested a ball perfectly into Beano’s path. It was not latched on to with relish. (See previous point). Perhaps he’s fed up with all the bookings he gets. His persistent infringements (difficult to tell if they really were fouls or this was another case of a referee deciding that as it is Dave Kitson it is ok for me to award a foul) may well have deserved a booking but for similar behaviour Reid did not receive similar punishment.

As for the penalty, I’m still trying to work out why his arm was up there. It really should not have been unless he had received a big push and that didn’t look like what happened.

I thought Asa Hall justified being deemed (OUFC) man of the match by the sponsors. The quality of his goal will be overlooked as we lost but despite a couple of misplaced passes he was one of our better performers throughout. I recall one sublime ball with the outside of his foot that found a colleague on the right wing with absolute perfection.

My nephew emphatically disagreed. He said we didn’t have a midfield. He said Plymouth controlled the centre of the park. Time to go back to 4-3-3?

A big worry from this game has to be that our defence, something we’ve come to rely on, no longer looked solid. We couldn’t handle Reid and we let in three. Ryan Clarke just watched the first goal go by. Perhaps it was a clinical finish but his lack of reaction was mystifying.

Other worries were that we didn’t really have anything on the bench to change the game and that we only gave it a proper go – like home sides are expected to do sometime in the game – after we’d fortuitously got back to 3-2 with two minutes to go.

Concerned?

Yes. I’m not feeling great about Scunny & Newport. The league has closed up even tighter. We’ll be without Kitson and we have to start winning more games. That’s just one win in our last five league matches.

Have I given up all hope – certainly not, but there’s no doubt that we need to up our game and that might mean a little strengthening here and there. Can we wait for the long term injured to return? And would they be the answer anyway? I’m not sure.

Scunthorpe

After the Plymouth performance the team owed us one but what we got was an effort that can best be described as putrid. I don’t give a monkey’s what all the talk is about how it hurts the players to lose and they are suffering in the dressing room blah bloody blah. There’s only one place to do your talking and it is on the pitch. Talking? Hardly a fecking whisper on Sunday. We were an embarrassment. 

I’d like to think I’ve been (just about) reasoned and fair in my biased judgement as an OUFC fan and also like to think I give all concerned a reasonable chance before spouting off. But it seems I’ve been conned into believing that maybe, just maybe, we’re getting close to sorting out our home form. But we’re nowhere near are we? That’s now won 4 drawn 4 lost 5. Please think very carefully Mr Lenagan and consider us fans who are close to being bored shitless nearly every home game.

So what was wrong against Scunny? I could stop now and say, EVERY FECKING THING, but will articulate a little further.

The defence has lost it. The solidarity has gone. Jake Wright didn’t look fit, yet he stayed on for the entirety. He made mistakes. Johnny Mullins, who was one of our better players, also made mistakes towards the end of the game.

The midfield weren’t particularly bad, they were just nothing.

Riggy was no better than the previous game nor was Williams but he did produce a couple of runs again.

Up front the Beano / Deano partnership has never really worked and it certainly didn’t on Sunday. There was no hint of understanding between the two of them. Both were static, stood back on their heels, anticipating feck all, playing as if they had never seen each other or a football before. Was it their fault? Quite probably, but in their defence the lack of decent service from the wide men and the uncreative central midfielders could be cited as some kind of mitigation.

We had no pace, played so many misplaced passes it was frightening, and seemed quite skilled in the art of not being able to control the football.

Johnny Mullins won a couple of high balls into the box, as did Deane Smalley, but these efforts on goal hardly gave the defenders palpitations. Other than that the Iron back line won every cross, corner and throw that was launched in mindless fashion towards the goal.

We showed no fight, passion or determination to make the right things happen, and there was me thinking that we had some winners in this team. Yep, I’ve been conned again. If I was now chatting to any of those part-timers I’d referred to earlier I’d have to say, “You’ve got it right, pal”.

But I am a supporter who has signed up for the cause, tickets for Newport and Charlton already purchased, so I’ll be there. But I want change. Sick and tired of turning up at the Kassam to have the piss (and quite a few quid) taken out of me, my family and us other loyal suckers.