Blimey, it must have been a good result on Saturday – I’ve now received a proper match report. Thanks to
Warton St Anne’s Womble for it.
Don’t forget the other report written this morning, it will feel all neglected and lonely if you ignore it.
Well we finally didn’t lose to Oxford. I know, I couldn’t believe it either. You kind of got the sense that Ardley and co couldn’t believe it either, and if you’d have asked me at the start of the game I would have taken a draw.
But, (and you could feel that coming) afterwards, this definitely felt like two points dropped to me, as Oxford were there for the taking.
Firstly, the positives, and there are some. Our back four were pretty much fine, with few of the Chuckle Brothers moments which have characterised our defending for so long.
Oxford had two or three good spells, which have in the past meant that even if we dominated, we would concede at least one with a ridiculous defensive error. That didn’t happen this time, and given my last match was at Carlisle (4-4, with some of the worst defending I’ve ever seen) I’ll take that.
Azeez looked good at times. Ditto Smith and Tubbs. Sutherland did too at times, although gave away the ball too much. Afterwards, whilst trying to leave the car park callers to BBC Oxford said they thought we looked good and had out-thought the home side.
But I felt like there was far too much thinking going on. It was also a most frustrating match to watch, because of it.
Ardley had a game plan, and set us up in a 4-3-3 which no doubt looked good on paper. But we struggled to create any real clear-cut chances, and looked so slow going forward the Oxford Under 11s could have set up to defend from us. It looks like they skipped the chapter in counter-attacking when Ardley was on his coaching course.
The midfield certainly looked frightened of moving forward with the ball. Shea didn’t once utilise a quick throw to a man in space. He didn’t even want to kick a ball into the channel for Azeez to run on to.
It was so obvious a blind man would be able to accurately predict where and how we would surrender possession when our attack was stifled again. Too many second balls went un-won. Too many passes to the oppo, too many times the long ball wasn’t directed on to a willing runner.
So why wasn’t it changed? Why didn’t we win the midfield battle. Or at least have some form of change at half-time? Actually, could we organise a speed date session so the forwards and midfields at least recognise each other?
This was best exemplified when, midway through the 2nd half, with a chance to break quickly, Sammy Moore picked up the ball on the edge of our own area. Tubbs and Akinfenwa were ahead, running into space. Finally, we thought, a chance for a quick break.
However, instead of running forward, trying to stretch the game, or putting in a pass to force a quick tempo, he stopped, turned around, struggled to find a defensive player, before eventually allowing Bennett to find some space (by letting all the Oxford players get back to position) and delivered a slow ball.
This was clearly an instruction from Ardley, to try and play from the back, but why? It limited our attack massively, and made us so predictable.
Ultimately, this was a game that could have been won. I just hope we don’t end up regretting not getting all 3 points for it.
Plus points: We didn’t lose to Oxford. Which was nice.
Minus points: We didn’t win at Oxford, which would have been nicer.
The referee’s a… typical example of a League Two ref – strange decisions for both teams, some of which were so odd you couldn’t make it up. Managed to piss off both sets of fans so at least he wasn’t a total nob. The lino on the other hand…
Them: You can see why they were struggling, and why they are plying the loan market for whatever they can get. You got the feeling that they will be getting a stuffing in the next few matches if they play like they did against us. Bloody quiet too.
I always feel a bit aggrieved paying over £20 for a league two match as well!
Point to ponder: Why are we so shit at getting it all right together at the same time? And why can’t we play at the same level, regardless of who our opposition is?
I understand that they’ve had a few games in a short spell, which probably explained the formation, but why not at least inject a bit of pace by putting some of the younger lads on with 10 minutes to go?
There is still a long way to go before I’m convinced Ardley is anything other than just a League Two manager. We certainly don’t look like playoff material under his stewardship.
[SW19’s thought : Ardley might be quite a decent enough League One manager, given the style of play he would prefer to adopt. TBH I’m not sure if he’ll ever get us out of the division (the right way), because of that, and I do still question his motivation abilities and his ability to think new things. Though his two assistant managers don’t help him on that…]
Truth is stranger than fiction: 5443 has never sounded so quiet. Maybe that’s what happens when you only build ¾ of a stadium. I don’t know what our away attendance was like, although it looked alright from where I was sitting. Mind you, I only normally go to northern away games, and I had wondered if we’d take a few more, given the amount of Christmas shopping there was to avoid…
Was it worth it? I suppose so…
In a nutshell: We didn’t lose. That’s a kind of victory, yeah?