Fan’s View 2021/22 – No.11 – Gillingham at home

Article by Paul Beasley Sunday, September 26th, 2021  

FAN’S VIEW 21/22 – NO.11

This was a game I wasn’t particularly looking forward to. Whilst we got out of the blocks rather better this season than most recent ones overall it has still turned out a bit underwhelming eight games in. The weaknesses in both performances and the squad are now quite evident and currently I can’t see that we have a solution in our midst.

I don’t detect a great deal of optimism as far as the top end of the table is concerned amongst most fans I know.

And this is without throwing in the joys a side managed by Steve Evans brings to town.

Perhaps I should try and cheer myself up pre-match with the fact that we’ve won three and drawn one of our previous home league fixtures. Trouble is that draw was the last game and it was against a side that are likely to be more akin to the Gills than those we have beaten.

OXFORD UNITED 1 GILLINGHAM 1

When asked why don’t you meet up with us in the Blenheim at midday I didn’t take much persuading. It just meant leaving for the city a couple of hours earlier than I would have done otherwise and travelling by bus instead of car.  With a decent choice of beers and CAMRA discount bringing the price of the two pints I consumed down to £3.15 and £3.51 what’s not to like? Looking round there was another group of Yellows who had chosen the Blenheim as a meeting point. It’s football that’s the magnet and an incredibly strong one at that drawing in from far and wide. The last I knew one of the guys lived way beyond the Scottish border and another in Northern Ireland although I learned he’s now in Cornwall. Those in our group had travelled too but not as far – Newbury, Basingstoke, Reading and Rugby plus more. It’s not just away games that clock up the miles and it is easy to overlook the distances many cover over a season.

As I needed to be at least semi-fit and raring to go on Sunday morning for walking football purposes I decided to call it quits after a couple and walk to Minchery Farm. Four miles and a few seconds under an hour I was outside the Quadrangle. And a pleasant stroll it had been too. Down the High Street and then the Iffley Road taking in the sights and looking at all the fine people in their late summer clothes. Perhaps there was something to look forward to after all.

Going through Littlemore I knew I was close but the smell of sewage courtesy of Thames Water reminded me of that fact and the crowing of a cockerel confirmed I now was far from the city centre.

Turns out there had definitely been something to look forward to. One nil up in five minutes. Well on top and playing some delightful football.

Turns out though that it turned out some more and turned back round again to a kind of as you were. As the half hour mark approached I commented that there was a bit of a lull in our play and that Gillingham were slowly getting back into it.

With the arrival of 30 minutes a Gills equaliser came too. We could have been a few goals up as Matty Taylor was getting his head to loads of crosses and winning the ball in effective manner sending one crashing against the join of post and crossbar. Instead it was 1-1. And this was against a Gillingham side that up to the break had just been Gillingham, not “Steve Evans” Gillingham.

It was an exceptional hit from Macca but the room he was given was ludicrous. Rarely do players score from that far out in such a fashion but surely we could have spared one player from those that had congregated, and quite rightly so, in the penalty area when we conceded a free-kick, to rush out and close down. I need to add here that I thought it was a very soft free-kick. The referee though was Darren Drysdale.

Before the first 45 minutes was over Tim the frequent post-match caller to local radio who sits in front of me turned round and said, “We’re a mid-table team. We’re not going up.” The evidence I’ve seen very much supports that view.

In the second half we could again have had quite a few more goals but didn’t manage any. On another day perhaps we would have. When my son thought I was being overly critical in my final analysis his view was that eight times out of ten we would have won that. Thing is this was the one that matters. The one that put just one point in the bank not three against a team that are now 19th in the table. (Only three points worse off than us by the way).

Perhaps it was listening to Radio Oxford post-match that got me focussing on the weaknesses because I thought they were way too kind. A lot of this all we need to do is take our chances stuff. We just need to be more clinical. Easier said than done of course and a complete glossing over of much that is holding us back.

Taylor’s finish was a classy piece of work. A goal scorer about his business. As soon as he was played through I had total confidence that the ball would end up in the back of the net. That immediately got me wondering if it had been any other Oxford player would I have felt the same. Truthfully I wouldn’t by any stretch of the imagination but will throw in that I’ve not seen enough of Herbie Kane to know what he would be like in such a situation. He’s got so much quality I’d back him but probably hasn’t got the pace to get there in the first place.

Which brings me on to another question – where are the goals going to come from? Matty’s our goals scorer and if chances are created for him he will score. We know James Henry gets a few but I’m then looking round and seeing a very bare cupboard. Some of our shooting was dreadful. It was as if technique in training had never been worked on.

And as for that extra something that gets a team promoted, at present I can’t see it. Kane alone stood out as someone who clearly can operate at a higher level. He sees things others don’t. In a congested game he still is somehow able to find space. As I’ve not mentioned who set up our number nine best do so now – Kane of course. The quickest of thinking and deadliest execution of the pass. I even forgave him a couple of unnecessary fancy flicks, which is saying something.

Compared to what he did even those who didn’t have bad games looked a bit ordinary and there were some who were far from their best.

Although we ended up with 25 shots seven of which were on target I didn’t see this as a game when our full-backs got into really marauding mode and that was when we played some of our most effective football last campaign. At present Steven Seddon isn’t looking quite as good as when we first saw him and on the other side Sam Long has only just returned from injury. Partnerships don’t yet seem to have formed and I seem to remember Sam and a colleague having a heating debate when different wavelengths were tuned into.

In the centre of the defence I thought we did well enough but I did hear comment that Jordan Thorniley was being beaten in the air too easily.  That’s something I’d picked up on but not in this game. Elliott was more back to his self of last season and I should probably have cut him some slack up to now as his breathing hasn’t been what it should following a chest infection.

I didn’t think Henry was anywhere near his best and the view on the radio that we should stick with the same team Tuesday didn’t go down well with me. Yes I know we play well when he plays well but if we pick him and he doesn’t play well what does that say?

Cameron Brannagan was back after a shoulder injury apparently that had nothing to do with football. Um, so why didn’t the statement the previous week say that? He wasn’t as good as he has been either. Less chance to get on the ball with Kane on the premises?

And Gavin Whyte? He’ll do something that’s Championship level and remind us why Cardiff came in for him. Beating a couple of opponents, a nutmeg, sprinting towards goal and with his pace he’s not going to get caught, and then …….  we know why he’s back with us. Sort that out and perhaps I would then be able to categorise him alongside MT’s finishing and Herbie Kane as the best assets we currently have in the squad.

The Gillingham side that kicked towards the fence had reverted to the Steve Evans one presumably after a good old bolloxing. The shirt pulling in part two was approaching the level of the Wycombe tug fest and as usual the man who is supposed to clamp down on such matters according to the laws of the game was about as much use as a cheap fixed energy deal with a small provider.

Then there was the going down and holding the head to get the game stopped tactic. How many times did they do that? We all agree that the players’ welfare is paramount but it is madness when any one of them at any time can just fall to the floor off the ball and hold their head when not even a feather from a passing pigeon has floated down to cause injury.

Mark Sykes, who was unlucky to have been dropped, penalty? Thought so at the time, thought so on watching the replay. Bloody referees.

Photo, Simon Jaggs

If it had been given and we had converted it would I have searched for more positives in this Fan’s View and not bothered to pick out what I have done? We’ll never know will we.

We’d better beat Accrington. If we don’t we will have somehow managed to negotiate September with no wins and that would mean just two or three points from 15 which is quite pathetic for a team harbouring ambitions of promotion.

And when we’re up there won’t all this stuff I’ve just written look very silly?

 

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