Saturday, 29 January 2011

Rosy Performance on 'Pink Day'

This week, everyone attending Oxford United was supposed to be dressed in pink. Why? Because the Ox that sits outside our ground was vandalised and sprayed a bright shade of the colour. Instead of the club handing victory to the vandals, they have impressively tried to take something positive out of this unfortunate event by teaming up with breast cancer charities.

Today was therefore supposed to be ‘pink day’ at Oxford United. However, I was sceptical as to whether a very male crowd that rarely break with tradition would embrace the fancy dress. Dad ensured me they would and so I left my customary yellow scarf at home, instead plumbing for a very bright pink one belonging to my Mum.

As I neared the stadium, my suspicions proved to be correct. There was no pink on show (bar one poor man who had gone one step further than Dad or I had dared and had bleached his balding head pink). Dad, who was sporting an unusual pale pink jumper and I looked embarrassingly out of place. As such, I quickly pocketed the feminine scarf and pulled a knowing face at my father, who was fastening up his buttons on his jacket to hide any trace of the ghastly pink V-neck.

Our pre-match entertainment was provided by the Oxford Brookes cheerleading society. Unusually, I thought, for such a society this included one token, chubby lad who looked alarmingly isolated, accompanied as he was by a host of athletic girls in skirts. Still, judging by the wide grin etched on his face, he clearly thought he had hit the jackpot.

The cheerleading was enjoyable to watch, but it was not a patch on Oxford United today. Once again, Oxford were absolutely superb and were greatly unfortunate to only draw against our neighbours from Gloucestershire. I have rarely seen an Oxford United team play with such fluency, flair and panache. After a period of chopping and changing, manager Chris Wilder has found a settled team that appears to be a winning formula. Unfortunately, I could not be at the Shrewsbury game on Tuesday night, but my brother (a notoriously harsh critic) gave the team a glowing report over the telephone.

For such an inspired performance, we started sluggishly. A rare mistake from Vice-captain, Jake Wright, was pounced upon by Cheltenham’s star man, Wesley Thomas, who delicately and agonizingly lobbed the ball over a scrambling Ryan Clarke and Harry Worley. This goal, however, was followed by consistent Oxford pressure for the large majority of the match. Our equaliser came courtesy of Tom Craddock thanks to excellent work down the right-flank by energetic right-back, Damien Batt (a player who could quite easily hold his own in the Championship.)

The second half reminded me of the Bradford game two weeks ago. Oxford were completely in control, carving out numerous chances but could just not find out way past the Cheltenham goalkeeper, Scott Brown, who was wearing a revolting orange jersey. Unlike the Bradford game, though, we were not able to make our dominance known. Still, I did not go away feeling too dispirited by the full-time result, as Cheltenham were in fact rightly awarded a late penalty after a rash challenge by Anthony Tonkin. Thankfully, Ryan Clarke came to the rescue which at least meant that the worst case scenario was avoided.

Our Ox may have been defiled, but nothing will stand in the way of this Oxford United team at the moment. Roll on Southend on Tuesday night…

Man of the match: Damian Batt