Fan’s View 2020/21 – No.44 – Accrington at home

Article by Paul Beasley Tuesday, April 6th, 2021  



The reward for winning each and every league game is three points. No more (for beating the likes of Sunderland), no less (for beating the likes of Accrington Stanley). The contrast between our two Easter period fixtures could hardly be greater. The Black Cats are the biggest fish in the League One pond by a distance, even from Pompey and Ipswich. Accrington are the smallest and I do not in any way mean this disrespectfully. On the contrary for a long time I’ve very much admired what they’ve achieved with what they’ve got. I’d be surprised though if they weren’t tired of such talk and find it all a little condescending. Sick of the next sentence when their club is mentioned always including the words “punching above their weight”.

If we are to now make the play-offs our margin for error is infinitesimal but in theory none of our remaining eight games is as difficult as Good Friday’s was.

There were no upsets with teams in the top half of the table unexpectedly dropping points. Shame that. In fact every result went as I expected except I was a little surprised when our Easter Monday visitors got a point – but that was before I’d appreciated the form of their opponents, Burton, has dropped off since the initial JFH boost.

We’re now very much mid-table. Eleventh all round to be precise. Eleventh in the table. Eleventh based on PPG. Eleventh best off when based on maximum points still achievable.

Start winning, keep winning and it will become much better than eleventh so back to common sense and that one game at a time approach.

Detailed analysis would likely turn out to be a waste of time but looking at the remainder of the season I think the top three will be Sunderland, Peterborough and Hull although I’m no way confident enough to put any money where my mouth is on this or anything else I’m about to predict. I don’t think the Black Cats will be the ones to miss out on going up automatically though.

That leaves three of the top six slots to be filled. I’ll give one of those to Pompey based on who they have still to play. On current form Blackpool have a strong case but good runs don’t last forever so they’re far from being a cert.

In early January Accrington were sixth with enough games in hand on all those above them to have gone top. Since then they’ve fallen away and have two fewer points than we do albeit having played one less match.  Although two matches back they had seven put past them by Peterborough I don’t expect a John Coleman team to turn up and roll over without a fight, especially given that they would go above us with a victory.  No such thing as an easy game.

Oxford United 1 Accrington Stanley 2

No beating about the bush, that’s it, season over. The error of our ways was much too large to leave any justifiable claim that we are even on the edge of being in the mix. We got what we deserved, as did Accrington. They were worthy winners. Annoyingly so at times but that’s what it’s all about. Be professional within the unwritten boundaries of the acceptable and play the game right up to the margins and those margins will depend on who the man in charge is. Today it was Ollie Yates. He’s no Trevor Kettle but like all officials had his own way of doing things. Visiting players kicked the ball away time and again when we were awarded a free-kick yet never once was a card shown for the misdemeanour. After one of the evil anti-sporting pull backs on Brandon Barker, he did wave a card but the miscreant also kicked the ball away. Wave it twice and like a magician turn it red. That would soon stop such shenanigans. Glad he rightly booked Matty Taylor for his hand ball effort on goal as we went for it a bit right at the death to try and win a point. Wow!

When I’m having a go at officials I more often than not add but we only have ourselves to blame for losing the game and that was very much the case here. In fact Yates and his cohorts did us a massive favour on 13 minutes when they scored from a corner. A goal is scored when the ball crosses the line. Except it isn’t if the referee doesn’t give it.

No wonder Accy were incensed and that anger may have been funnelled into their performance, not that they weren’t on top anyway, and into the Paul Smyth 20 yarder which gave them the lead a couple of minutes later.

Seems to me the northerners have got the better QPR loanee deal on what I witnessed today. Not for the first time Olamide Shodipo had me going he’s got to do more, he’s got to be better, he’s got to stop losing the ball on the rare occasions he gets it. I then move on to: but am I being unfair and are there others who are also not playing particularly well? The answer here is yes and that brings me back to something I wrote a few FVs ago when I said we have quite a few players who aren’t good enough if we’re looking to be at the very pinnacle of L1 with the Championship firmly in our sights.

I don’t want to make Shods my scapegoat and he did one or two excellent things including getting back and saving us when we’d been completely undone on the break after we’d had a corner.

I would though say there’s more of the “not so good” from him at present than the “good”. That’s something I’ve said previously about Dan Agyei. Karl Robinson can’t trust Agyei if he only brought him on for Shodipo in the 80th minute. DA is ours, OS isn’t. What does that say about building for the future? That’s the territory we’re in now and probably were when that change was made.

One of our two other substitutions was Sam Winnall coming on for James Henry in the 68th minute. Talk about not good enough. Talk about building for the future. Surely we must recognise the mistake we’ve made on this but it’s deeper than that.

In the old days when I was a 100% home and away man I’d just sit down and write the FV mostly off the top of my head. Now, stuck in my chair and nothing really got me out of it watching this, I sometimes make a few notes. Early on I’d written: mistake. Then mistake. Then again mistake.

The only conclusion I could come to was that we’d started very poorly and after the first ten minutes we did show a bit of improvement for a very short space of time. When the game was over however we’d only played for a couple of three minute spells here and there in addition to those futile efforts at the end.

Early on I thought there’s goals in this game and after we’d pegged them back thought there’s more to come. I was surprised it was only one. I wasn’t surprised it was our opponents who got it.

Our goal was a piece of quality in a game where we only showed brief glimpses which hinted at the fact we have a bigger budget than Stanley and thus, at least in theory, have superior players. That we’re not able to showcase this fact in a game like this much more frequently is a matter of immense frustration.

The ball from the returning Sam Long to find Matty Taylor was a good one and our centre-forward’s control and lay off for Elliot Lee, whose intelligent movement and clinical finish, should have set us up to go on and make the game ours.

Not a bit of that although in the final minute or two of the half we did genuinely look like a home team (not that there is much of a distinction without fans being present) about to press home that advantage.

That was just a cruel trick. We started the second half as we had done the first, in crap mode with Accrington looking likelier than us to score the next goal.

Midway through the second period with the score still being 1-1 I began to think perhaps we’d get lucky and somehow win. Lee had a shot saved from a Taylor pass and Shodipo had unleashed a great strike.

Then a goal did come. For them on 70 minutes. Winnall’s first contribution was giving away a free-kick which was not dealt with and ended up being dispatched by Michael Nottingham.

The stats tell much. We had 17 shots but only three were on target. Awful finishing or mostly speculative efforts when we hadn’t really created much of a chance? For them it was 10 shots on target from 18. That tells me we weren’t providing a proper barrier in front of the back line thus allowing this to happen.

Accrington certainly weren’t hit and hope long ball merchants but they did deliver the ball into our box quicker than most sides we face and our centre-halves were being asked difficult questions in the air. They usually look assured when they are stepping yards out of their box to head away but that wasn’t the way it was in this encounter.

This doesn’t mean that Accrington didn’t play some neat football from time to time too but they didn’t hang about with possession football in areas of the pitch that was never going to hurt us. They were effective at what they did. I was quite impressed, begrudgingly of course.

After almost every game my son is much more forgiving about our performances than I am. He thought we merited a draw. His argument being that in those oh so brief spells when we did play some decent football it was better than the best stuff Accrington produced. That’s as maybe but a football match is 90 minutes long and has to be won.

For much of the time there was no zip to our play. There was no movement off the ball and we don’t seem to link up as a team when in the attacking half of the pitch. Barker is an undoubted talent when running with the ball and was the one player who I thought could make something happen whenever he had the ball. But he shouldn’t, or shouldn’t have to, run with it as often as he does. Football is a team game, a passing game. We’re supposed to be a passing side. I don’t think I’m blaming him though because there was usually very little to pass to.

We saw flashes of skill such as Lee’s turn near the corner flag late in the second half to beat his man. A flash here and there isn’t enough though.

So that’s it.

A final massive rant about the match – the iFollow coverage and their infernal replays when the action is still going on was worse than ever. Whoever is responsible knows nothing of football. A TV camera needs shoving where the sun don’t shine.


What of the rest of the season? Should we be building for next already? Give a youngster or two a start here and there? If we don’t have to, don’t pick players that won’t be here next season? Thing is though who will be here next season? We’ve got so many loan signings, as most clubs have. Where do you start? It’s a conundrum.

I now want this season over for many reasons. With no fans around its one to forget, as the back end of last season was really too even though we did make the play-offs. Putting that aside it is also largely one to forget given what our team has delivered on the pitch. We’ve had our moments but there have not been enough of them. There’s a lot wrong.

2021/22 will be our sixth back in tier three. Naturally I’d rather be there than lower down but it does get a little boring when for the most part we seem to be more a run of the mill mid-table/upper mid-table outfit. I doubt Tiger will be happy with that continuing and I’m pretty sure if there is a shift of power in the ownership stakes anyone who may put more money in certainly won’t be. If we are to become, as has been mentioned, this top 30 club then we’ve got a long way to go from what has been served up to us this season.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, April 6th, 2021 at 10:22 am and appears under News Items. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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