Fan’s View – Rochdale

Article by Paul Beasley Sunday, September 1st, 2013  

Disappointed, Obviously”

How many times have these been the first two words spoken when someone from Radio Oxford has thrust a microphone in the face of the manager or one of our players?

Too bloody often is the answer. Yet we heard it again on Saturday. Getting sick of it quite frankly, but what else can they say?

As the season progresses we gather more evidence that points to success or failure. Not getting in the top seven will be failure in this, our fourth season back in the League. Success can’t be anything other than promotion, can it?

So:

Do our three home performances so far suggest there’s sufficient improvement on last season to get the points to push on?

Absolutely not. We have not convinced at home. We don’t take the initiative for whatever reason.

Do we have enough strength in depth?

It doesn’t look like it at the moment.

And to add to the gloom I’ll throw in:

  • We have not kept a clean sheet yet
  • Those “winners” I thought we had were not evident against Rochdale. Perhaps they’re not winners after all.
  • If grit and determination can’t see us through then that extra bit of skill and class can, but we lacked that too.

I’d like to believe we would have made a better fist of it if we’d had our first team out and that they were fully fit – i.e. Dave Kitson had not been up all Friday night with the runs, Deane Smalley’s hamstring was loose and Sean Rigg’s was in full working order too.

First teamers will suffer injuries, we know that, but to have two key players out with hamstring problems at this early stage makes me think we’ve been here before. Just unlucky, or is this sports science stuff nothing more than mumbo jumbo?

First Half

Rochdale’s approach, as had been expected, was very different to that of Bury and Wycombe. They had come to play football which is a good thing, Isn’t it? What this does mean though is a lack of intensity. There was nothing to get the crowd going. The referee did not need to stop play and the game flowed in a non-offensive manner.

We had quite a bit of the ball but so did they.

Our half time lead was probably about deserved. Asa Hall came in for a lot of post match criticism. It is not his fault he is not a left winger nor that he was chosen to play ahead of someone who is. I thought Asa was one of our better players. He was instrumental in the goal. Having played the ball to David Hunt on the right he made his way to a spot beyond the far post where he nodded the cross back perfectly for Danny Rose, another good first half performer, to test Dale keeper Josh Lillis. Lillis failed miserably. Instead of deflecting the ball away from the goal he contrived to angle it nicely for Beano to smash home from close range.

The game changed somewhat as half time approached. With referee Fred Graham showing yellow cards to Hall and Andy Whing we at last had something to get wound up about. Asa was quite rightly penalised for high / dangerous kicking but there was nothing malicious about it. Do the rules really say that a booking is mandatory? Whing’s looked to be a 50:50 but perhaps he needed a little bit of law breaking to help him along as truth be told he struggled all afternoon, again.

With the standard now set by close of play there should have been a long list of names in Mr Graham’s notebook. There wasn’t. He let a lot worse go and only added Rochdale’s Peter Vincenti.

Second Half

Top of the League. A goal to the good. Kicking towards our own fans. What more could we ask for?

We should have taken the game to the opposition from the restart. Instead we did nothing. A few minutes in I commented that we looked anything but a top of the table side.

It was quite pathetic to watch but with Rochdale having most of the possession and us looking like we really didn’t know what we were supposed to be doing there was no surprise when they equalised on 51 minutes.

I’d question whether it should have been Hall’s job to stop the powerful Rhys Bennett getting to the by line but that said it was a bit worrying how easily he was outpaced and out-muscled. Why Tom Newey didn’t spot where Bennett was heading and cut the route off I don’t know. Instead our left back did a bit of ambling and standing about. Matt Lund then quite easily out jumped David Hunt and that was it – Rochdale had their first away goal of the campaign.

After this set back we came to life in brief flurries but never did enough to convince anyone that we deserved a victory.

When Kitson, who did well considering his condition, needed replacing it was Tyrone Marsh who came on. It goes without saying that I want every Oxford youngster to be an unqualified success but I’ve not seen anything from Tyrone yet that has me thinking he’s the one. He should probably have done better with the one chance he had but so too should Beano when the ball then fell to him.

We lacked ideas in how to go about breaking through the Dale defence in our search for a winner. It seemed the only player we had who anyone thought could really worry them was Alfie Potter. This meant he was given the ball so often that by the end he was cream crackered and long before then had become ineffectual. It also meant that two or three defenders converged on him very quickly.

So there we have it – another home performance that left the fans underwhelmed and not greatly entertained and another couple of points dropped.

Having a season ticket I don’t pay much attention to what it costs to get into the Kassam Stadium but bought a ticket in the SSU for a mate for this game. £23. As we left I asked him if it had been worth the money. He gave me a rueful stare.

Back on the road again

After two home games we now travel on the next two Saturdays. We all know we’ve been better away than at home but make no mistake our trip to the Pirelli Stadium will be a sterner challenge than we’ve faced on our visits to the South coast.

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