Fan’s View 2020/21 – No.37 – Swindon away

Article by Paul Beasley Wednesday, March 10th, 2021  


Pre-match musings

The build-up is so far removed from the usual. I’m sat in front of my computer screen twiddling my thumbs with just under two hours to the off so thought I’d twiddle some fingers too and bang a few words out.

This is THE game. THE game because it is the next game and, well we know why. Putting that aside it’s just the three points on offer as in any game. I’m not going to obsess over it. Whatever the outcome we move on. After our seven they hold the bragging rights with their “one in a row” following our second half weakening and ultimate crumbling last November. For us that was a wake-up call. We then went on a 10 game unbeaten run. That doesn’t stop our fans thinking our players owe us one though.

The league table puts us tenth in real time and on PPG. Swindon are 20th and 21st. It goes without saying they need the points for a different reason from us. Many bookies are offering 12/1 on us getting promotion. From what I can see only William Hill are bothering with our rivals from the other end of the A420. It’s a meaningless 5000/1.

This obviously doesn’t indicate any gap between the two teams on the day. Their form over the past five games is actually better than ours. Seven points, eight goals for but seven against. We won just four points and only scored once. On the bright side just two were let in.

They’ve won their last three home games but stats can be played around with and used as felt fit which is something we’ve come to learn more than ever in these Covid times.  Our dropping away in the scoring charts and failure to register a league win in our last five has masked our away form so I’ll throw that in as our ace. Since we lost at Fleetwood on 30 January we’re unbeaten in nine, winning five of them. In that sequence we beat the poorer sides and took a point off the better ones.

Before I get a panicking pint or find something else to twiddle I’ll finish with a bit on the state of play behind the scenes at the county ground and in their treatment room.

In early February owner Lee Power said they were on the brink of bankruptcy and Diallang Jaiyesimi was sold to Charlton with that money supposed to be enough to keep them going until the end of the month.

It’s messy at Swindon. Power wanted to sell the club to an American last May for £7.5m but a court injunction prevented this. Michael Standing and Clem Morfuni who own part of the club said they had not been consulted.

Power says that he personally and no-one else invested heavily to get them promoted last year but that, “Monies and funds that were used to get us up aren’t there now to keep us alive.”

We’re into March, they are still alive and there’s a game on – and just for the record I don’t want any team with historic roots to go out of business. (Nor do I want dodgy people to succeed).

Injury wise they’ve been treated a bit kinder than us. As far as I can tell they’re only missing Jonathan Grounds, Mathieu Baudry, Zeki Fryers and a few keepers. They now have an emergency loan keeper playing for them. This will be his third game.

Swindon Town 1 Oxford United 2

This was about little else than getting maximum points. The pitch dictated that flowing football was not on the menu. I was very critical of the playing surface at Milton Keynes but this was even worse. Disgracefully so. The commentators described it as a pudding. At times I thought I was watching golf with a player trying to get a wayward shot out of the bunker there was that much sand flying about. And why water such a surface to the extent they did if not to stop a team that wants to play football from playing football? Or maybe they just can’t afford to give the turf, what little of it there is left, any tender loving care. So anyway, we were playing the pitch as well as eleven in red.

There was plenty of evidence of the feistiness one would expect from a local derby on show and I thought the colour of cards shown by referee Charles Breakspear were the correct ones in each instance. Watching on iFollow it is hard to tell for sure though. We never get proper close up replays that prove things conclusively one way or another. What we get is replays of things we have no desire to see again when the fecking play is in progress. They’ve had long enough to sort this out but seem to get no better. Perhaps get the bloody producers to have a word with someone who actually understands the game, hey? Compared with the subscription services and the matches they bring into our living rooms a tenner a game is very expensive. As League 1 beggars we can’t be choosers though and it’s better to have this than nothing. Denied the genuine article, if I had to make a choice, give me OUFC for a tenner each away game over all Sky Sports channels for just double that each month. That’s the way I roll and I suspect all genuine fans of lower league clubs do too.

Jordan Lyden hammered into Elliott Moore early on. Mark Sykes did the same on Lyden a bit later on but that was after he’d been taken out off the ball. Live by the sword and all that. They gobbed off more than we did in attempts to get cards waved or dismissals. In fact I’m not sure we did much of that at all but I am biased. Anyway, fair play to Breakspear for handling it as he did.

Lynden needed a bandage and it wasn’t applied in the traditional way.

At half time I wasn’t settled. I’d not been at all for the first 45 minutes and my body reacted in the same way for part two. I just couldn’t stop fidgeting. Even when I did become slightly calmer inside as goal number two went in with just eight minutes of the 90 remaining I was still far away from having a completely relaxed body setting. I know the way OUFC do things – and sure enough.

At the break my son too confessed his feelings. When I told him how I felt he said he too had not been able to settle during the first half but now the action had stopped for a quarter of an hour he was. I gave him the bad news, this does not get better with age. No, it gets worse (in a good way.) It worms deeper and deeper inside you. It’s to be endured and enjoyed. Oh yes.

I’ve forgotten to mention something quite important. The HT score was 0-1. It had been that way from the third minute. Moore played a long cross field ball to Brandon Barker out wide on the left flank. Two Swindon men came across, BB came inside, one of them, Paul Caddis, jumped in front of him. That wasn’t much use as our man just kept coming inside a little bit more before unleashing a shot which found the net probably via a little deflection or two. Who cares, it had got to where we wanted it to go. Nice start.

Indisputably we were the better team but we’d been in that position against these with a similar lead once before this season and that didn’t end well.

I worried. Being better doesn’t always equate to winning. Mike Ford in his half time analysis asked the question, “Where are the goals going to come from”? A very fair question.

Before the restart my thinking was that we needed to do better to win this. We were doing too much that wasn’t quite right. A really good side would be burying this quality of opposition. Then I remembered the state of the pitch and how any team can beat any other on any day and the, possibly illusory, lack of overall quality in the 2020/21 version of tier three compared to some others.

When the game got going again and we did not get another with Matty Taylor still just misfiring, a couple of chances for the home side had me thinking this might be another of those days. We had a semi cock up at the back leaving Anthony Grant, a half-time substitute for the stricken Lyden, with an open goal from distance. Perhaps Moore might have prevented a goal if Grant had done anything decent with the ball but he didn’t trouble the men in white.

It did however trouble a man in a blue top sat on a settee in Bicester, me. It’s coming. Then it did. A penalty given against us. Again because of iFollow coverage and the very brief Sky highlight, which are basically the same thing, I can’t provide comment on whether that was a good call by Breakspear or not.

So the only comment that felt appropriate was “bugger”. With an experienced pro like Brett Pitman stepping up to take the spot kick I’d already given Swindon the goal on the basis that Jack Stevens wasn’t going to pull off another save in similar circumstances for the second game in a row.

He’s got more faith and belief than I have, clearly and ability too. Again he went to his left and kept the ball out. Bloody marvellous. A legend already?

At 0-1 I was still wound up.

Substitutions were made. Jamie Hanson and Olamide Shodipo came on for Sykes and Liam Kelly with the match remaining as it was.

The right-back for the night Anthony Forde was booked in the 75th minute. Sixty seconds later Cameron Brannagan was caught in a challenge but no foul was given. For a minute or so it looked bad. Please, not another who will be missing for a few games. Limping turned to jogging which turned to sprinting. And relax. Not really. This fixture is never about that.

In the 81st minute more substitutions. Taylor and Barker were removed and their roles given to Dan Agyei and young Leon Chambers-Parillon. Karl must really trust the latter. Having seen what was what I’d told my family that this was a game for the former. I could picture him ploughing through the sand.

It took no time at all. Onto a Shodipo header forward he was off. Chambers-Parillon went with him pointing where he wanted the pass. That oozed confidence as did what Agyei did. He took it on himself and from just inside the corner of the area fired home low and accurately. It happened in a flash and if the coaching staff can coax this type of thing out of him on a regular basis we do have some player there after all.

They could not handle him and the evidence was that a third goal for us was much more likely to arrive than a first for them.

Yet, what came next was a halving of our lead. In stoppage time we completely failed to deal with a routine free-kick knocked into our penalty area. It is right and proper to forgive him based on the penalty save but our goalie stepped out and failed to gather the ball. A simple goal gifted to a poor side. A poor side that now had a couple of minutes to come up with something else or hope we came up with the same again.

The same again was on the cards when they had another free-kick but this time disaster was averted.

Well then, thanks for this but whilst it would be bang out of order to be overly critical of any individual best not to shy away from areas where improvement wouldn’t come amiss. Our hero between the sticks not only looked a bit lost when Swindon scored but also leading to Grant’s long range chance. There’s still plenty of work to be done. Wayne Brown will be on it. In the first half Josh Ruffels was given a testing time but as ever he stuck with it.

I wouldn’t say we had a standout man of the match. This was a team effort but I particularly liked Alex Gorrin’s contribution and he managed not to find his way into Breakspear’s notebook.

Quite a convenient win this. The engraver is not required. We just take the “In a row” trophy back with us. It does not need modification with the “one” already carved on it. We’ll just sling it in the back of a cupboard somewhere and move on. Who knows when it will see the light of day again? Perhaps next season, perhaps not for by then there could be a division or even two between us. Time will tell.

I’ve already got Saturday on my mind. A visit to table toppers Hull who tonight turned over Peterborough, a team I rate. I’m expecting a better quality game of football. What’s their pitch like?

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