Fan’s View – 18/19 – no.46 – Bradford at home

Article by Paul Beasley Monday, March 18th, 2019  



I’ve been watching OUFC for many many decades now and thought it very unlikely to witness anything really new. That proved to be very wrong.

In all that time a game comes along every few seasons that for one reason or another sticks in the mind much more than others. This match entered that category when Jamie Mackie put the ball in the net in the 94th minute and that was before the controversy that followed.

In added time I was sat contemplating where a single point was leaving us in our fight to avoid dropping back into L2. Keeping clean sheets gives you a chance. Letting the opposition do similar reduces that chance significantly. There had been a lot of same old same old about what we’d seen. The outlook was bleak.

Then in the dying seconds it looked for all the world that it would turn out even worse. Curtis Nelson cut a pass out but mis-controlled it allowing Eoin Doyle to win possession and get the ball to George Miller who ran at Rob Dickie. Miller attempted to slip in the now advancing Doyle but Dickie’s legs got in the way. Instead of performing an effective block though they just set the ball up nicely for Doyle who entered the area and pulled it back for an apparent tap in for Lewis O’Brien. The Bantams were only going to be a point behind us and we would be only two points better off than bottom placed Rochdale who have played a game less.

But O’Brien copied the finishing style that Oxford United had put on for most of the afternoon and duly put it wide. A qualified referee who knows the ins and outs of the laws of the game to a greater degree would be in a much better position than I to take it from here. I’ll do my best but am happy to be corrected. There will of course have been thousands of words written about this elsewhere and uttered over pints by those who witnessed what happened next. Some will have followed their usual routine and missed all this. Another example of staying to the end paying dividends.

There didn’t seem to be many meaningful appeals for anything from Bradford players at the time. Cameron Brannagan had got a challenge in but nothing that impeded O’Brien in any way and it no way looked like a corner to me either. Of course they were likely to clutch at straws once we scored and who can blame them in their position?

I’ve watched an 11 minute vlog a young Bradford fan has posted on You Tube and their reaction is telling. “How the fuck have you missed that?” “O’Brien, what the fuck?” They just thought he’d cocked up.

Simon Eastwood then took a very quick goal-kick. He put his hand on the ball to ensure it wasn’t moving before he took it. I was thinking we’ve got to get on with it in rapid fashion but not so speedily as to force referee Andy Davies to blow his whistle. The ball was played very short to Josh Ruffels and my immediate instinct was that he was going to play it before it left the area. That breaks the laws and a re-take would be needed. It then appeared to me that he realised this and waited until it was just outside before haring off down the wing. His long cross field ball was then brought down expertly by Gavin Whyte who fired a shot straight at a defender. Mackie’s reading of the situation topped that of everyone else. As the ball dropped with no-one anywhere near it he hurdled forward, kept it in the air and hit as sweet a volley as you’ll ever see.

Time to go back to the vlog and the other side of the footballing coin. Their agony our ecstasy.  As we broke: “they’re going to score here, you’s know it”. Then “good bloke” and finally, “I fucking said it. Fuck off. We deserve to go down. Fucking useless.”

My mood was somewhat different and my behaviour was that of a teenager not an old git. It’s not something I do very often now but I was over the back of my seat and at the back of SSU. For some reason a massive traffic cone had been abandoned there. That became part of my celebrations. It was a lot heavier than I’d expected. My son was over the back too and there was a little kid running about clenching his fists. Absolutely unbelievable. When did a goal last elicit such a reaction?

To our left are the guys employed by the club to video the matches for analytical purposes. They must have been joined by a lot of what looked like youth team players all in black tracksuits. This lot were leaping and thrashing about in a manner even the ultras, if they were still to exist, couldn’t have bettered.

This is why we go to football. All the miserable suffering becomes worth it.

Photo, Simon Jaggs

And then … No, it can’t be. What’s he doing? He’s bloody disallowed it someone said. When it went in I again didn’t see much protest from the visitors although one did run towards Davies. Who had communicated with him, how and the exact details we’ll probably never know but after giving the goal he then indicated to Mackie that it had been ruled out and pointed towards Eastwood’s goal. The voice from the vlog is off again. “What’s happened? He’s given a pen. Oh my God, we’ve got a pen. What’s happened? He’s not given the goal and we’ve got a pen”.

Next Davies is over in front of the dug out with the fourth official and all and sundry from both teams. Nelson signals for VAR. Um? Then back to the vlog, “He’s given the goal and we don’t get shit”.

Triple phew!

Bradford appear to refuse to kick off. Eventually they do and there’s still time for them to launch the ball forward one last time but that’s it, game over. Three points won. We’re 19th, they’re bottom, seven points worse off than us.

At the time I thought that whatever the issue may be there was no way the referee should rewind and chalk the goal off given the length of time that had elapsed. That wouldn’t hold up in court because the time from Eastwood making the ball live to the goal was a mere 16 seconds. We broke that quickly. No pissing about as we are often prone to do.

Still unsure why the situation developed as it did. Afterwards on the radio and in social media there was debate regarding the goal kick being taken when there were still players in the penalty area. Excluding Easty there were four or five players from each team present. So what? Law 16 covers goal kicks. There’s no mention of defenders being in the area. There is this, “If an opponent who is in the penalty area when the goal kick is taken, or enters the penalty area before the ball is in play, touches or challenges for the ball before it has touched another player, the goal kick is retaken.” They didn’t do this and if they had we would never have got down the other end and converted.

So really much fuss about nothing and the correct decision was eventually arrived at but just think of the outcry in these parts if the scoreboard had been forcibly rewound to 0-0.

I could probably draw this FV to a close here and now but that would be ignoring 90 minutes of football.

The wind was once again horrendous. I can’t recall a game where there has been so much trouble with the ball refusing to stay still to allow free-kicks, corners and goal-kicks to be taken. I have no idea how players and referees are supposed to deal with this. So once more well done all for putting a game, of sorts, on for us to watch.

I’m always reluctant to write our opponents off as being poor during a game because that really tempts fate but they were poor. “Shit” as TR sat in front of me pronounced. There’s no case against. Defensively we almost restricted them to no chances except when we fell apart but got away with it in that last minute. That said I don’t think the back line individually looked quite as assured as they have in some games when clean sheets have been achieved. The sponsors gave the man of the match award to Sam Long and this wasn’t way off the mark as it often is. Again I spotted a neat little drag back from the young man. (Well 24 year old).

The report on the official site said we started the game with playing 4-2-3-1. On Radio Oxford Karl Robinson said we were going to play 4-4-2. At times formations do confuse me.

Ahmed Kashi got the vote to start the game over John Mousinho. They play a different game and I think in slightly different positions on the pitch. Kashi fits in a bit further forward in midfield than Mous does and, as he did at Rochdale, moves the ball very quickly with either his first or second touch. This helps our play greatly but I thought he perhaps faded a bit later in the game.

I don’t think most of the other midfielders or forwards that started the game covered themselves in glory. There was so much terrible shooting, poor balls into the box, wrong decisions being made and what at times looked a bit like playing for oneself as opposed to being a team man.

Early on James Henry was making forward runs and making himself available in channels on the right but his effectiveness soon faded and later on he was again guilty of appearing to switch off and losing possession on a couple of occasions. He was one whose shooting was off. In the first half he put one wide with his right when a better option from my easy vantage point looked to use his other foot. He did though hit a free-kick after the break which forced a proper save from Richard O’Donnell in the Bradford goal.

Cameron Brannagan was the exception hitting the ball cleanly on target a couple of times, once in each half. From the first Jerome Sinclair rushed in and missed the target. The second from a very long way out was tipped over by O’Donnell. A corner was not awarded which led to Mackie having his name taken.

Jordan Graham is a talent but on the day didn’t produce much that really helped the team effort, running into traffic too often and not playing the simple passes. Whyte always looked dangerous but on reflection there’s something of the flattering to deceive about him. He’s very quick and can control a football but needs to set up chances worthy of the name and his shooting was again atrocious. No player gets this aspect of their game spot on all the time but his inability to set himself properly before letting off a crack at goal is becoming a regular occurrence. One went flying into the East stand instead of anywhere near the goal.

Sinclair’s shooting too was awful and he was spared further embarrassment when the off-side flag went up after he fell over and failed to tap the ball home from two yards out. The two he got against Scunny said he might be a goal-scorer after all. What he did here said he isn’t.

Mackie showed them all how to put a chance away. A chance he had done a lot to set up himself. His post-match interview gave me a warm feeling. How pleased was he to score? Lots and lots. He was buzzing, it meant so much. He has been in the game a very long time and seen so much. He netted at the Etihad in 2012 for QPR in the last game of the Premier League season when Manchester City scored twice in added time to take the title. Yet scoring here for little Oxford probably meant just as much to him. That volley could possibly have saved our season. A long way to go, but what a boost that has given us.

If we don’t finish above Bradford I’m pretty sure we’ll be going down. Their ownership issues are probably bigger than ours but now isn’t the time to compare and contrast. Here I’ll just leave it with the football and raise a glass to Mr Mackie, the man who made the difference. Inspired substitution Karl, thank you.

This entry was posted on Monday, March 18th, 2019 at 11:15 am and appears under News Items. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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