Fan’s View – 18/19 – no.52 – Shrewsbury away

Article by Paul Beasley Tuesday, April 23rd, 2019  


Sitting pretty on 56 points before this fixture, it was really easy as an Oxford fan to state that 50 points, which was the total our hosts had acquired, is bound to be enough to ensure survival. Naturally Shrews fans had a rather different idea.

Bradford have gone but the teams occupying the other bottom four slots could still achieve 52, 53, and 54 points respectively. Shrewsbury’s fifteenth place in the table would normally constitute relative comfort but not in this crazy season when there is so little to choose between so many sides.

So there was quite a lot resting on it for them and even though that wasn’t the case with us we played as though there was.

The game had not long started when I thought both teams were looking good enough for L1 football. Shrewsbury were the more direct, not playing bad football mind, and confidently bringing the game to us. We matched them in the confidence stake though, this being shown in the assured way we were passing the ball and retaining possession.

Our first real threat came from a passing movement where the ball had been transferred between many blue shirts. There were plenty of passes before it was Jamie Mackie to Jordan Graham, with the winger coming back instead of going down the touch line and finding Samir Carruthers who had found space and wanted the ball. Carruthers stabbed it forward, Mackie flicked on and the advancing Gavin Whyte twisted his body onto the ball to make it sit up nicely for him to crack home. So he can finish. Little did we know what was to come.

There were appeals for hand ball from some home fans and players too but tellingly those, other than Jon Mitchell, closest to Whyte weren’t the ones.

Games involving Oxford never now seem to be dull with there being the possibility of something of note happening at any moment. Sure enough eleven minutes after taking the lead we’d conceded a penalty.  A Shrews midfielder had been allowed to run a long way without challenge before passing to Shaun Whalley. As Whalley stepped to his right Curtis Nelson came out to meet him and put an arm out across his opponent’s chest. Down went Whalley and a penalty was given by referee Christopher Sarginson. Rightly given having seen it back again, if a little soft but soft should not come into it. If defender gets between man and ball before using his arm I’d say that’s okay but CN had not done this. (Yes, I’m making this up without referring to the laws of the game).

I’ll also add that I’ve watched replays of the penalty Nelson gave away against Charlton and now think that was definitely the right decision too. Curtis a weak link? Surely not. I do know though that if certain players in the history of our football club had conceded spot kicks in consecutive games they would have been castigated.

1-1 with Jack Stevens being given no chance by Oliver Norburn.

On 36 minutes on the face of it matters took a big turn for the worse. We were going to have to play the majority of the game a man light. But I’d failed to process that in the last four games, we’d won three when we’d had a man dismissed but only drawn when we’d managed to keep XI on throughout.

Once more I have to say that on seeing replays I can’t provide much of a case for Ahmed Kashi only receiving a yellow. At the time I wasn’t sure.

That we’ve now had three straight red cards in four games I find a strange one because I don’t think discipline has been a particular issue for us. The Simon Eastwood one was obviously different but the other two were studs up fouls.

Right after the game we got fans asking “what’s the point in Kashi” and being critical of his lack of discipline. If EFL on Quest are to be believed the man we have on loan from Troyes had never been sent off before he was shown that second yellow at Walsall. The point of him is that he is a very intelligent footballer who can see space, get the ball and move it on in double quick time with accurate passing. I know different people see different things but I’d say anyone who hasn’t spotted this can’t be concentrating when they’re watching AK play for OUFC.

Very soon the team with the full complement had taken the lead. Luke Garbutt, playing at left back, got his head on a cross but only succeeded in putting the ball into the danger zone where Greg Docherty, on loan from Rangers, controlled with his first touch and scored with his second.

I bet Shrewsbury thought they’d got us. “One nil and you fucked it up” sang the singers in the stand to our right. Careful I thought but I’ll admit to not being optimistic about the outcome but hey, we already had those points on the board.

I thought we were missing that hardness that can be summed up by smashing fist into palm of hand. If this had been a game we absolutely needed to win I would have, and I assume Karl Robinson would have too, started with Josh Ruffels at left back, Garbutt further forward and Cameron Brannagan in midfield.

I fully get why he wants to see what others have to offer particularly with a view to making decisions on who he would like to keep at the football club for the 2019/20 campaign. Carrurthers has had hardly any game time this season and Graham hasn’t been anywhere near a regular 90 minute man so it was perhaps understandable that they weren’t having that much of an influence, our goal aside of course.

I saw them as possibly our two weakest links and it was clear that to prevent a repeat of the run through a central midfield area that lacked Oxford bodies that led to the second Shrewsbury goal, changes would have to be made.

They were and yet again the manager deserves huge credit.  Brannagan replaced Carruthers for the second half and a couple of minutes in Graham had gone off and Jamie Hanson had come on.

We now had greater solidarity and dare I say it were playing with “discipline”.

The next problem came on the hour mark when Rob Dickie went off injured to be replaced by 17 year old Nico Jones. Who? And I ask that in a good way. Big lad, didn’t look fazed by events so not really a problem after all. That bodes well if we’ve got teenagers able to appear in this fashion. Time will tell, much more time, if they’ve got what it takes to make it but we’re hearing good things about our youth.

Twelve minutes after coming on Jones had provided an assist and we were level. He won a header which fell to Brannagan and on getting the ball back whacked it forward (or was it one of the cutest passes you’ll ever see?) from mid-way in our half on the left. Luke Waterfall appeared to run past the ball which meant Omar Beckles was taken a bit by surprise and clearly hadn’t steeled himself for a race with Whyte. The Northern Ireland international was never going to lose this contest. From a couple of yards onside he sprinted past the turning defender and was on the edge of the box in a flash having taken the ball with him. That ball was then hit low and true under the body of Mitchell. More proof that he can find the back of the net.

Six minutes on and it happened again. This time the provider was Brannagan. He cut out a cross in our penalty area and blasted the ball away sending it after one bounce in the centre circle onwards toward the Shrewsbury goal. The only person on that pitch who can run as quickly as a football travels when it has been kicked is Whyte and he kept pace with it, made it his, this time out ran Waterfall and from just inside the box thrust it home with the outside of his right boot past the out-stretched Mitchell. A hat-trick really does say he can score goals.

It was pathetic I know but I just had to turn towards the Shrews fans and join in the “2-1 and you fucked it up” chant. Very juvenile and all the more embarrassing when one considers the average age of their noisier fans. Thirteen years old at the most? But they started it. Felt like I was back in the playground. Please Miss they’re annoying me and now listen to them they’re singing “ten men, we’ve only got ten men”. Make them stop.

We saw the remaining minutes out in a completely professional way. That there always seems to be lots of added minutes is no longer that much of a worry. Six minutes, bah! We turn it into kind of two. Mackie is magical in such situations.

During and after the game I opined that I liked the look of Beckles and would be happy if he were to be Nelson’s replacement. It was then pointed out to me he lacked pace and was exposed by Whyte when he got the second. Again different people spotting different things and that’s something that makes football debates / arguments so entertaining.

The main topic of our post-match discussion was why the Shrews played the way they did in the second half when they were a man and a goal to the good. By playing a very high line they were clearly vulnerable to the high ball over the top, or even through, for Whyte to race onto. I guess the expectation was that at home and against ten they should be doing the attacking irrespective of the score. But as they were winning and really in need of all three points to ensure they remain at this level without having to get something from their last two fixtures (Coventry and Walsall), dropping deep and keeping possession making us work hard to win the ball if we wanted it would have been the sensible option.

Listening to Sam Ricketts (ex-Chesterton Boys) after the game I’m not sure he’d grasped that. He said “We were comfortable at 2-1. We should be expected to see the game out. We never got going. We never got the ball moving from wing back to wing back. We got caught out by two long balls. It was two disappointing pieces of defending. Jon Mitchell had no other saves to make”.

They didn’t need to get going just make sure we didn’t.

So another fine result and fine day out. The usual very good Shrewsbury pubs the Cross Keys and Prince of Wales where one just feels welcome even if you are from out of town. Good company, good banter amongst our own group and interesting football discussions with followers of the Salop side.

They will stay up and all being well we will drink more local ales in these establishments next season when hopefully we’ll once more be toasting three points.

The programme editor has a bit of explaining to do 

This entry was posted on Tuesday, April 23rd, 2019 at 6:24 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