Thursday, 6 September 2012

Late Drama as Oxford Defeat Arch-Rivals

In a typically vociferous atmosphere at the Kassam Stadium last night, Oxford United defeated their arch-rivals Swindon Town for the fourth successive time. Substitute Alfie Potter’s dramatic late strike was enough to separate the two sides and ensure that bragging rights remain firmly in Oxford’s quarter.

In a similar vein to last year’s encounters, United spent much of the game on the back foot. With a growing injury list to contend with, manager Chris Wilder was forced to hand a debut to powerhouse Daniel Boateng in the three man midfield. This meant Oxford sacrificed their customary fluid style of football for a more robust and physical approach. It was a decision that paid off as a formidable Oxford outfit stood firm against Paolo Di Canio’s ever-dangerous League 2 champions.

As with any cup game against superior opponents, victory tends to come with an element of fortune, and this match proved no different. Ten minutes into the encounter, the graceful Giles Coke was presented with a clear opening after a neat one-two, but thrashed wildly at the attempt. Shortly afterwards, Swindon’s veteran centre-half Darren Ward failed to convert his side’s bets chance with a free header from a Swindon corner. For all Swindon’s dominance though, Oxford had defended stoically and could even have led at the break after the terrific Adam Chapman went close with a free-kick.

The second half saw an escalation in the ferocity of the atmosphere, as Oxford’s devoted supporters hurled smoke bombs into ‘no man’s land’ (the cordoned off area separating the two sets of supporters). This act startled Swindon’s surprisingly muted fans, and on the pitch Oxford were also beginning to assert their authority on proceedings. The industrious Boateng was replaced by in-form and exciting talent, Potter, who immediately embarked on one of his trademark mazy runs at the suspect Swindon defence. With Oxford in the ascendancy, on-loan Brighton starlet, Jake Forster-Caskey stung the fingertips of Wes Fotheringham, whom Di Canio had replaced after 22 minutes in their previous game.

Despite Oxford’s late flourish, the match looked certain to end in a deadlock with a dreaded penalty shoot-out the necessary outcome to decide this most fiercely contested cup game.
But with two minutes left on the clock, a calamitous mix-up between Swindon’s central defensive pairing saw James Constable bearing down on the Swindon goal. United’s talisman, who rejected the overtures of Swindon in January this year, kept his composure and squared the ball to Potter to slide into the empty net.

What followed, was surely the most manic celebrations ever witnessed in the first round of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.


Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Bye Bye Wilder?

It will be interesting to gauge Chris Wilder's reaction in tonight's derby match against Swindon Town. With speculation linking the Oxford boss to the vacant managerial role at Coventry City, a victory over Oxford's bitter rivals could be the perfect way for Wilder to bow out.

Expect the fans to cheer Wilder's name with gusto this evening. After four impressive years at the club, including the memorable play-off victory in 2010, Wilder has established himself as a popular and well-respected figure at Oxford. His tenure has brought much-needed stability to the club, bringing an end to the managerial merry-go-round that existed before.

At such an early stage of the season, it would be a great shame to see Wilder leave.