Fan’s View – 18/19 – no.48 – Wycombe at home

Article by Paul Beasley Sunday, March 31st, 2019  


The build up

This season our home form has been way better than that on our travels with, prior to our visit to the Ricoh last Saturday, just over two thirds of our total points being gained at the Kassam. Coventry were an in form team one place below a play-off slot. We beat them.

Wycombe are a team in dreadful form having drawn three and lost six of their last nine games and are two points below us.

So it would be easy to conclude that we wouldn’t have much difficulty with this one.

My thinking though is very different and I’m no more confident than I was seven days earlier that we will emerge triumphant. Actually, possibly a little less so. All poor runs come to an end (unless you happen to be called Fort William) and I’d much rather an opponent turn up with at least one fairly recent win to their name. Then there’s the way they play and I’m very much expecting them to perform nothing like the Sky Blues did. I’ve said as the season has progressed that we got better once we started doing the things game management wise that almost all other teams were doing as a matter of course. Whilst being nowhere near the dirtiest team in the league nor the biggest time wasters, it has been quite satisfying that some opposition supporters have noted us as being close to this. One of the reasons – and there were a few – that we beat Coventry was our greater experience against a young, possibly naïve, team. Wycombe had two 34 year olds, a 33 year old and a 32 year old in their starting line-up for their latest match, a 2-1 defeat at Shrewsbury. The average age of that team was nearly 28. In contrast ours against Cov was 26 with Kashi just past his 30th birthday and Jamie Mackie the old man of the side at 33.

Also it is well known how Gareth Ainsworth gets his teams to play. So I wasn’t expecting a flowing game of football.

The talk of injuries to Rob Dickie, Gavin Whyte, and Jordan Graham didn’t help raise my levels of optimism either. We now have an established back four that has only conceded twice in six games and one of those only came about when the referee failed to penalise a foul on Sam Long. Any forced change in that area would not be helpful. Whyte and Graham are players that give opponents a lot to think about and when they’re concentrating on that are less likely to be plotting how to bring us down. But no matter, we have others.

Oxford United 2 Wycombe Wanderers 1

What a messy game of football. But no OUFC fan will care less with another 94th minute winner. The odds on that happening would have been incredibly long and I wonder if any other team has experienced such a thing two home games running.

Did we ride our luck again? Yes, quite possibly. The evidence being Joe Jacobson putting his penalty wide and the huge barrel man 36 year old Adebayo Akinfenwa, hitting the bar with a second half header.

But isn’t it extremely satisfying to see a hit it long and get stuck in team come unstuck, and at the very last at that? Ainsworth always says that’s how they have to play given the small budget they have to operate on and Karl Robinson says he’s a good bloke and the Wycombe players are all good genuine lads. So that’s okay then.

As I’ve said before, I really admire Akinfenwa. There’s nothing like him about and along with his strength he has a really subtle touch and ability to lay the ball into the path of his team mates.  Alex Samuel didn’t look too bad either.

From the off I thought referee Simon Hooper was going to do the right thing and help us along our way as we played, or at least attempted to play, football the right way if there is such a thing.  Two early robust challenges from our visitors resulted in free-kicks. Great, keep this up and we’ll be okay I thought. Never happened. He was soon letting things go and appeared to me to be letting play continue when they did to us what we’d given a free-kick away for when doing it to them. I am a biased yellow though and I’m so very pleased that most of our side do their fair share of proving they won’t be bullied.

A large part of the Wanderers game plan was to win a free-kick and then launch the ball into our box. Some of those free-kicks should never have been, some were bought and some were genuine and on occasions down to the naivety of our players.

I didn’t like what Wycombe were doing but acknowledge that they were good at it. If that’s what gets them results then who can argue. Oh, wait a moment, they’ve now gone ten games without a win.

We’d not done a lot when the Chairboys took the lead with about a quarter of the game gone. Rob Dickie gave away a needless foul and the ball was delivered left footed from out on the touch line. Eastwood had been battered by Akinfenwa, possibly fairly, possibly not, a little earlier and perhaps the reason he didn’t deal with the situation here was because he was expecting something similar from a visitor. He jumped, stuck a hand out, and missed the ball which came off Sam Long, who may have received a little push, and fell to Adam El-Abd who, despite having five defenders within approximately a yard of him, was able to help the ball on its way with a tiny hooked touch behind him and over the line.

Wycombe were now above us in the tightest of league tables.

Poor defending without question but we’ve been good at the back recently and if we’d kept Wycombe out this would have been our fourth clean sheet in a row. What we needed to do was make sure it didn’t happen again and it didn’t. Other than the Akinfenwa header I can’t remember them having a proper chance even though the stats show they had ten shots half of which were on target.

The equaliser wasn’t long in coming. Dickie hit a cross field ball some distance with pinpoint accuracy to Marcus Browne who was hugging the right hand touch line and timed his run perfectly to ensure he wasn’t offside. Browne controlled and took on his marker, Joe Jacobson. He went on the outside and his pace took him to the edge of the area where his low ball in by-passed James Henry and his marker who may have been committing a foul. Jerome Sinclair was in the right place in the six yard box to despatch the delivery. That right place is between the sticks as emphasised by Karl Robinson once again.

Time to mention the three involved in this goal.

Dickie had a bad spell and his critics pounced but I think that his performances are now better than they were before he had his dip and he’s also showing some signs  of maturity and leadership. He was talking, pointing and telling others what to do. Provided it is done in the right way that will be very much needed when Curtis Nelson has gone. The more leaders the better. He’s only just turned 23. Nelson is coming up 26.

Browne was another whose form fell off a bit but little injuries probably accounted for that plus the fact that we are the only club he’s ever played in the league for. It’s still very new to him and he’s another youngster at just 21. It’s highly debatable whether he’ll make it at his parent club West Ham but his level may well be above L1. What he did in the few fleeting seconds when he created this equaliser was better than anything a Wycombe player did all afternoon.

My opinion on Sinclair thus far is I’m not sure. I obviously admired the way he got into the right position and took his goal but I’d like a bit more physicality from him and better control and hold up play. I don’t get this talk on Radio Oxford, especially from Nick Harris, that if we were to get him on a permanent basis he could be the new Kemar Roofe. I await further evidence but would love to be proven wrong.

Seven minutes after we’d pulled ourselves level it looked very much like we would let in more than one for the first time since that sub-standard showing at Accrington in mid-February.

Left-back Josh Ruffels found himself in the right-back position so looking back I’m guessing he was the covering player with others pushed up for a corner or free-kick. Sensibly in the circumstances and because it is in their DNA, Wycombe smacked the clearance as far as it would go. Our man held Samuel outside the box but less so once inside where the forward turned and went over in a bit of a tangle. Having seen the incident again I don’t think it is as clear cut as I thought on the day but nevertheless clever play by Samuel who did exactly what any manager would want their player to do.

As ever deflation turns to elation when the opposition misses a penalty. Eastwood wasn’t even required to produce a save. It was bloody close to going in though.

In the second half we improved without looking bankers to emerge victorious. Dickie won a header from a corner which bounced towards goal before being chested away. We appealed for handball as fans are programmed to do. The players appealed too but that may well have been for a foul on Sinclair who wasn’t able to turn the ball home. There’s a picture on the Oxford Mail site showing Marcus Bean giving Sinclair a complete bear hug. Probably as much a penalty as the one they were awarded but with so many players in the box Mr Hooper had lots of things to focus on, this not being a priority.

Wycombe were very unconvincing defensively and their keeper Yves Ma-Kalambay, who’d turned up in fancy dress as a salmon, was very much part of that. This being so it would have been very disappointing not to have won but not quite the end of the world.

With seconds left I’d all but resigned myself to just the one point when, for the time being at least, 94 became my favourite number and that of many other Oxford fans too.

Substitute Jordan Graham played a ball from one side of the pitch to the other where Ruffels, in oceans of space, took it on his chest. Wycombe had allowed him almost as much space throughout the game and it was Josh who saw more of the ball, particularly early on, than any other yellow shirt.

This was to be his most telling contribution by far.  He brought the ball forward a few strides and with Cameron Brannagan also unmarked on his left, fed him. With everyone expecting a cross, Brannagan cleverly passed back to Ruffels who was now on the very edge of the area from where he bent a left footer into the goal at the far post as the fish flipped through the air but failed to get any fin on the ball. (I know, sorry).

A happy goalscorer. Photo, Steve Daniels

I did what I did against Bradford. Over the back of the seats. Banging the big traffic cone. My son had appeared from his seat there too and the analysts were celebrating as well. Different people react in different ways when a goal goes in and I don’t think it is possible to fake what one does or how one feels. So I have to say that whatever I let go against the Bantams there was only about 40% of that here. I think that was because our league position at 1-1 this week was so much less precarious than it was at 0-0 on 17th March.

It was still an absolutely marvellous feeling and anyone who suggests it was a cross and not a shot wants their heads examining. Just look at the way JR struck the ball, his immediate reaction and listen to his comments on the radio afterwards. He’s an intelligent honest lad.

This was again a piece of quality that Wycombe did not have in their locker on the day.

There was moaning near me that we weren’t shooting enough. Our stats show ten with just four on target. Not much of that lives in my memory but nor do I recall obvious failure to pull the trigger when a very good opportunity is there. Much rather two chances created and clinically taken than blasting away with no rhyme nor reason.

Before I conclude a few other comments on various individual performances are due.

The way Nelson used his strength in the first half to shove an attacker out of play said we’re going to stand up to you guys and give as good as we get if need be.

Ahmed Kashi’s influence cannot be overstated. It’s now becoming a bit of a habit but I’d agree with the sponsors in that he was man of the match. When he replaced Mous in the team I was worried that the removal of our captain’s protection in front of the back four would cost us. There’s no evidence of that at all nor of the fact that KR had just brought in a mate. Now fit he’s probably one of the first names on the team sheet and I can see that as he is the best passer of the ball in the club. Class. When did we last have a player like him in our midfield?

Brannagan was his usual battling self and he demonstrates intelligence too.

It tells what strength in depth (ignoring no permanent high scoring striker) we now have when we can bring on someone with the ability that Graham possesses.

One player who did disappoint unfortunately was again James Henry. He’s not as firing and focused as he was and at present isn’t contributing as much as his team mates. All very understandable though if his baby is still not well and no doubt he’s doing his best in the circumstances.

So we’re up to 12th with 49 points from 40 games. Last season having played 40 we were 17th with 47 points. Then the bottom three were relegated along with Oldham who at that stage were 19th with 44 points from 39 played.

This points to us surviving and probably Wycombe too as I’d say they’ve likely got enough spirit to make it if not quality to ensure it is a certainty. But take nothing for granted.

I genuinely can’t remember 2017/18 feeling as tense as this campaign has up until now.

The last time we won three league matches in a row was the final three of 2016/17 and that was then extended with a win in the first match of the following season. Other than that not a lot of consistently good stuff to brag about.

I’ve written this before poking about on social media where I’d like to think those who mercilessly slagged Robinson off will, as thing stand, give him credit for having turned it around, although I rather doubt it. So I’ll say it – Well done Karl. If things turn the other way I’ll again call it as I see it.

I’ve written way too much again and whilst I could now move into the off the field financial stuff I’ll leave that for another day, possibly.

There are though just two other things I want to conclude on.

I read the Oxford Mail article headlined “Late Oxford United win crowns fan Jason Priest’s first game after cancer treatment.”  I don’t know the guy but think I saw him outside the ground before the match. That was the first time he had been able to attend for 15 months. I wish him all the very best in his recovery and hope that he is able to get to at least a few more in 2019 and be rewarded by his team as he was on Saturday.

And finally something that made me laugh. “In and around” is a much over used football cliché and is usually mentioned in connection with the six yard box or penalty area. As we walked past the sadly crumbling Priory after the game we overtook four young fans in their late teens/early 20s. They weren’t wearing colours but I detected they were from Wycombe. One of them was on his mobile and he said “we’re in and around the Kassam Stadium and would like a taxi”.  Wonder what the reply was? “Okay mate, we’ll be there in 15 minutes or thereabouts, give or take and we’ll drive in and around the stadium until we find you”?

Bit surprised the horses were needed at this game

This entry was posted on Sunday, March 31st, 2019 at 3:36 pm and appears under News Items. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

© Rage Online 1998 - 2018 All rights reserved. If you want to copy stuff, please quote the source

another fine mash from ox4encoding