Fan’s View 2020/21 – No.45 – Crewe away

Article by Paul Beasley Saturday, April 10th, 2021  

SEASON 2020/21 No.45: CREWE AWAY

Pre-match thinking

Anyone who read the previous FV will know I’d all but given up on this season. We may not be mathematically dead just yet because including this game we’ve got seven left. That’s 21 points to fight for. Win them all and we’ll end up with 77 points which would get a top six slot. Amazingly we did win that number of games on the trot in December and January. Given what we’ve served up since that seems a long time ago now.

Can we repeat that run? No way can I see it. We’re just as likely, if not more so, to deliver what we did with that abysmal start to the campaign or something matching Swindon at home or Northampton away when we couldn’t even get a point from very poor opposition.

Win the next three or four then perhaps I may be forced to have a re-think but at the moment I’ve kind of switched off. To be honest I’d forgotten who we were playing until late in the week when I had to think about iFollow – and that doesn’t raise the spirits either.

Would I have paid a tenner if that was what was needed to watch this? Even though I’m a bit disillusioned at present almost certainly yes. If away travel had been allowed I would have been in Cheshire East in a pub or two before walking along to Gresty Road.

As it happened no money was required because this was free to us season ticket (to what?) holders because the coverage of the Lincoln game at the Kassam had apparently left a lot to be desired. Being a Sky subscriber I wouldn’t know about that but I’ll take it. iFollow couldn’t even get this quite right though. I never got the email in late March giving me the code to enable this to be a freebie. I did get the second email telling me to contact the club if I’d not got the first email. Didn’t need to do that though as my wife had received the first email but ffs this should be so bloody simple.

Anyway, perhaps it’s down to being removed from the action for so long, added to our form, that’s created a bit of a disconnect for me. I have felt no desire to make comment on matters which in the past would probably have got my fingers tapping whilst knocking out a FV. The latest published accounts. Simon Eastwood signing a new contract. The Fans Council.

It will come back to me I’m sure. Up to the team to make it happen sooner rather than later.

CREWE ALEXANDRA 0 OXFORD UNITED 6

Midway through the first half there was no way even the most shrewd footballing soothsayer could have come up with what transpired here.

Early on the home side were playing football that was a little bit better than that we were producing. They were a little bit sharper than us and I thought we were pretty average, lacking movement up front and when the opportunity arose, instead of driving on at pace when we could have got our opponents 3 v 3 in their box, instead went backwards in a slow and mundane style ending up outnumbered 5 v 8 or something.

I wasn’t enthused and was beginning to ask did we have too many old players to be moving around a lot in the final third? That wasn’t it when I checked later. James Henry is the oldest and he’s not yet turned 32. Matty Taylor has only had his 31st birthday last month. The rest should be in their prime or approaching their prime.

Relatively spring chicken like or not we weren’t playing with a freshness although the margins between the two sides at that stage were not that great. A Henry cock up led to Crewe nearly scoring but they had errors in them too and very early on Omar Beckles had played a bonkers back pass to his keeper. Son of Jussi did well enough to put it out for a corner on the volley.

Crewe contrived to miss chances with the chief culprit being Owen Dale. If this had hinted that plenty of goals would be along later then sort of, but think again. The Alex failed to score all afternoon and only managed one effort on target. On the other hand …….. (But all that later)

Before we got the ball into the net for the first time we were denied what appeared to be a 100% nailed on penalty. Rob Atkinson looked about to face down the keeper with a great chance of scoring, having got on the end of a free-kick, when he was hauled down. Nothing given by rookie EFL referee Paul Howard but he did a fairly decent job and wasn’t over officious.

As we moved into the second period of the first 45 minutes improvement was becoming slowly evident although not to the extent that dominance ensued.

When Sam Long sprinted forward with purpose in the 36th minute heading to the bye-line I was just about to say “at last” – and add “this is more like it”. But I didn’t have time to do that before a goal was being celebrated. SL had played a one-two with Henry and his cross was flipped up and across the six yard box by Mark Sykes. There it was met by Josh Ruffels’ forehead. Will Jaaskelainen should probably have kept it out but he didn’t.

Local full-backs celebrate the first

Two things to say here. Firstly, the importance of full-backs. Today we had both of our first choices back. They’re not only vital from a defensive perspective but attacking wise too. When we lost (probably not the right word because he was never ours) Chris Cadden and soon discovered that Sean Clare didn’t have many defensive bones in his body I, and I suspect most other Oxford fans, thought that was it as far as having a RB who could attack and defend. How very bloody wrong Sam Long continues to prove that to be.

Secondly goals and confidence. Scoring a goal often brings confidence to a team and on the other side of the coin conceding can drain that confidence away. One goal though isn’t much either here nor there because the next score registered can result in level pegging. If that second goal however results in a two goal margin then you’re talking. I’ve said before I don’t buy in much to this 2-0 is a dangerous lead bollox. Not if you’re mentally on your game and understand what needs to be done.

We grew a bit after our first but before we’d had time to line up and make a pencil mark on the door frame, we’d shot up some more when the second went in four minutes later.

After that our self-assurance oozed from every pore. Flicks were coming off, everyone seemed on the same wavelength and we were a real joy to watch. Crewe, who were getting the brunt of this, crumbled.

I’m not going to bother to get into the debate as to the degrees of how good we were/how bad were they? Having taken myself off in a huff after our performance against Accrington I’d not looked at the League table and hadn’t realised that Crewe would have gone above us if we’d lost this one.

That second was all of Crewe’s own doing. Well almost, if it hadn’t been for our pressing we’d not have robbed the short goal-kick. Ruffels got the ball to Brandon Barker and off he went purposefully to the bye-line. His cut-back from the edge of the six-yard box was side-footed home with the requisite amount of pace by Henry.

If that wasn’t enough to make the half time cuppa (*) a very enjoyable one there was another treat to come. In added time Henry’s free-kick swung over from the touch line, was missed by all and sundry except Elliott Moore. Our captain took it on and with his second touch stabbed the ball beyond Jaaskelainen.

I was trying to work out where this had come from. Was it because we’d deduced that our play-off chances were now so slim that we could forget about them and relax and play our football? Or was it because we’d concluded this was our very last chance and no margin for error remains? Whichever I don’t really care because something had clicked and that was what mattered.

Often when a side has such a lead the second half can be quite flat with the final score ending up 1-3. We weren’t having any of that. In the second minute after the game had resumed we’d got another – or more to the point Barker had got us another. It was all his doing and what a goal it was. He won the ball just inside our half with a proper side-footed tackle. Not the sort of tackle you’d expect a talented attacking winger to make and not the sort of tackle where the player losing the ball has the remotest chance of claiming a foul. BB ended up facing towards his own goal but quickly turned and was away despite being pushed by Dale who was the one who had lost the ball. The next red shirted player to be made to look a mug was centre half Donervon Daniels although what he was doing on the half way line is for him to know and his manager to ask. Barker slipped the ball one side of Daniels (on the Jack Daniels now by the way) with the outside of his right foot and hared away round the other.  He was on the edge of the box in a blink of an eye and after knocking the ball inside twice, scored with the added meaningless bonus of getting a Beckles nutmeg. Omar didn’t have the best of afternoons. That showcases what an exceptional talent Barker can be.

Three minutes later we’d got another and it was getting ridiculous. How come in some games we’ve got nothing much to offer but now this?

Sykes, who was showing trickery on the ball that he’s often not allowed to showcase due to being tightly marked and/or fouled, eased his way into a shooting chance from fairly close range but was felled by Beckles – who else?

Cameron Brannagan’s run up was too straight for me and I wasn’t surprised his spot kick was saved but it was our day. He put the rebound away.

Just past the hour mark we made four substitutions to go with the five Crewe had already made. I’ve never seen so many made so early in a game and wager there’s a good chance I won’t again.

Long, Barker, Lee and Matty Taylor became Jamie Hanson, Dan Agyei, Olamide Shodipo and Sam Winnall.

We never lost our grip on the game but the flow we’d achieved was understandably not quite there any more. That flow though was still sufficient to bag us a sixth. This came in the 84th minute and once more in this game highlighted the value of getting the ball back into the danger area from the bye-line. This time the deliverer was Agyei and the finisher Winnall. Very pleased for him. He’s not been a great success with us thus far but a goal is a goal. Here’s hoping he can also now deliver in a tight game if required.

Post-match thinking

I’ve had a brief glance at the League Table although I tried to resist. Ninth now but all the teams occupying slots 3-8 have played fewer games. As for the top two, forget them. Hull have already got more points than we can get and the Posh have already got 76. Plus there’s two teams below us who if they win their games in hand, will move past us.

So, forget it. However, if we are to go on a winning run at least we’ve started.

(*) – yes a cup of tea. This game brought me no pressure at any stage and I never felt a need to get the bottle opener out. Did so afterwards in celebration though

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