Saturday, 15 January 2011

Bradford Battered

In an enthralling game at the Kassam Stadium this afternoon, Oxford United ran out 2-1 winners against Bradford City. The score-line flattered the visiting team. It was Oxford’s best performance of the season, as they completely took apart an abysmal Bradford side who resorted to embarrassingly negative tactics under their wily boss, Peter Taylor.

After conceding a soft goal off a corner in the tenth minute, that was eventually scrambled in by Mario Balotelli wannabe, Omar Daley (you know the type: big ego with a certain swagger and nonchalant attitude, equipped with gloves and unnecessarily wearing his socks over his knees), Oxford United were truly terrific. We played with passion, high intensity and great confidence. To Bradford’s meagre two shots on goal, we peppered theirs with eighteen. To their single corner, we whipped in thirteen. Still, with fifteen minutes to go we were somehow still trailing to the woeful former Premiership outfit. Despite this, their supporters were deathly quiet, red-faced perhaps that their outrageously negative tactics were denying a team playing attractive pass and move football. At this point, I had the dreadful feeling that it was going to be on of those awful days when consistent pressure and utter dominance are not enough to win a football match. The final whistle would blow and we would depart dumbfounded at how we had lost to such an inept outfit.

Alas, it was not to be. After virtually everyone in a yellow shirt, including centre-back Harry Worley, had seemingly missed a glaring opportunity, we finally scrambled the ball home on 77 minutes via Steve MacLean. If this was to be MacLean’s last showing for Oxford (his extended loan spell has come to an end) then good luck to him. He has been brilliant for us. Five minutes later, justice was finally done as Tom Craddock managed to bundle home substitute James Constable’s cross. It was amusing how such wonderful football was eventually won through two scrappy goals.

A magnificent showing by the men in yellow. It is fair to say that their mid-season hangover is well and truly behind them. Once again, the Oxford United supporters were outstanding. The resounding reception that the players received at half-time, despite trailing by a goal to nil was a clear reflection of this.

The rest of the league had better take note. We’re ready to take it by storm.

Man of the match: Steve MacLean

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Smoke-bombs down in the 'Army Town'

Aldershot is one of the more intimidating away days I have been on. As my mate ‘Chucky’ (who had last accompanied me for the Gillingham game) neared the town, signs began to inform us that this was an ‘army town.’ In other words, we were encouraged to steer well clear. Indeed when we rolled into the forbidden territory, all corners of the Recreation Ground were being patrolled by scores of policemen in aluminous jackets. Unfortunately, Chucky was hungry and so we had to embark on a mission to find a sandwich round the picturesque streets of Aldershot. This took a while as most of the sandwiches were filled with meat that reminded me of my summer in Vietnam. With only portable toilets surrounding the Recreation Ground, they were an unadvisable purchase. Having eventually stumbled upon a very English looking home made pie shop, we met my brother, Eddie, for a quick pint in ‘the Crimea’ before an unusually long and scenic walk to the away end. The Recreation Ground has a certain charm to it. It is an old-school stadium with no posh toilets, no electronic turnstiles and fans standing in the terraces.

Amid a din of noise from both sets of supporters (the Aldershot fans helped by the aid of a drum), the game got underway. Our first goal came early and took everyone by surprise. A Damian Batt cross was met by an Aldershot defender and looped into the goal. From our angle though, it looked as if the defender had diverted the ball into the safety of the side netting. However, the Oxford players had started celebrating. We obviously then went berserk. The remainder of the half was not ‘like watching Brazil’ as the (highly animated) man stood next to me wanted us all to believe. Still, we went in at the break 1-0 up.

The second half made for a more entertaining encounter. With fifteen minutes left on the clock, a seemingly harmless cross was not dealt with by the Oxford defence and was scrambled in via the chest of midfielder Luke Guttridge. It was Aldershot’s turn to delight in our misery. The standard cry of ‘you’re not singing anymore’ went up. There was more drama to come, however. Similarly to our winner at Torquay, a well-worked move found its way to Steve MacLean on the edge of the box who cleverly passed the ball across the box for Tom Craddock to stroke home. The celebration was anything but tame. I managed to lose my shoe, Eddie slightly more worryingly his phone. As we searched the Aldershot terraces for our misplaced items, the same gentleman who thought Oxford United on a par with Brazil set off a smoke-bomb. I don’t think I have been quite so happy jumping around in one shoe, whilst coughing through an unhealthy amount of smoke. Thankfully, the referee soon brought the proceedings to a close leaving us free to find the shoe and phone.

Just another afternoon on the road with Oxford United.

Man of the match: Simon Clist