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Chicken Pox

Eh? Another win against Oxford?

Not only have we got this particular monkey off our back, it appears that all of a sudden they’ve become our favourite opponents.

Anyway, I have not one but two reports. Anyone would think we’ve done the double over a previous bogey team. Anyway, the first one from Oli Duffy:

Their goal was disturbingly similar, if not identical, to Millwall’s first goal here a couple of weeks ago.

Our defence sat deep in a line, Reeves and Bulman were outnumbered, and their right wing ended up in a hole and had time to take on a long range shot.


However, this setback did us more good than it did them. It was a very rare moment of quality from this Oxford side and it was us that grew into the game rather than them.

Even though we wasted far too many chances, we scored the required number of goals and they proved too inept to breach our defence a second time.

I delight in Oxford’s spitting and whining that we are physical and direct. Have they forgotten already how they used to play in the Conference and League Two?

In my mind, they are still one of those ‘thug’ teams I remember from our rude awakening to lower League English football, the thing is that they do it with a little more panache than either Stevenage or Mansfield.

They are sore because we are no longer guaranteed points for them, and I think that having a club of our stature outdo them irks them as it often has in the past with the our confounding of Luton and Portsmouth. By the end tempers on and off the pitch were fraying, and it was a joy to watch.

Besides, our players also all genuinely seemed better than theirs. I cannot believe they would genuinely argue that our front three did not completely eclipse theirs.

Even Poleon, despite all his fluffs, seemed to create more than all their forwards put together. Things were a bit more blurred in midfield, but that’s probably because I struggle to understand that what goes on there (does anyone?), and their goalkeeper single-handedly maintained their defensive dignity.

Kelly’s performance was a pretty big plus; seemingly a much more effective player than his performance against Walsall on the first day of the season.

Having said all that, there were a few points that slightly limited how pleased I was with striking the killing blow against our long-standing bogeyman.

Failing to put the game away was a concern and meant that the final whistle was more of a relief than anything else. Our subs bench seemed a bit denuded, and the substitutes that were made were disappointing.

I cannot get my head around Barnett. I’m sure he has some good qualities and could offer something, but he just can’t seem to get himself going. He does not seem to buy into the work rate off the ball that Elliot and Taylor epitomise, and he just seems to drift.

Whelpdale is also an odd one, and although he works hard he also struggles to get involved in the game. I think a big problem is how little game time these two have under their belts compared to our other attacking players; it must limit their confidence and match fitness.

Egan was much better and was both willing and able to make attacking runs with the ball. However, his stature meant that he was easily swept off the ball by one Oxford thug or another.

A win, however is a win. We’re in League One and look like we could well stay here for another season. We’ve beaten Oxford, and our winter slump isn’t turning out to be too bad.

All is well for now. Until Tuesday, when we lose to Sutton.

And next, from the ever-present STTA:

Well that was a lot better wasn’t it.

I’m taking most of the credit after confidently predicting we wouldn’t win again in January, watch us now go unbeaten to the end of the month 🙂

True though isn’t it – we’re not a team that lives up to expectations? When us lot expect anything of them they regularly fail to deliver but when we expect nothing they produce their best.

That may be a cause for concern Tuesday as we assume we’ll progress to the next round of the FA Cup but more of that later.

For Oxford we switched back to our preferred 4-3-3 formation. The only change was Poleon came in for Andy Barcham who watched the game from the stands after suffering a tight hamstring at Sutton.

We went behind on 6 minutes, our defence was too deep early on leaving space for Robbie Hall to run in to and fire the ball into the bottom corner.

Five minutes later we were level. Parrett picked up the ball in midfield and unleashed a great strike which – as the crowd ducked – ended up in the net via crossbar and keeper. We get one of those a season and this was a timely arrival of the 2016/17 version. 1-1.

We got the winner on 28 minutes. Further evidence how hard we work on set pieces as another routine saw the entire Oxford defence go with our runners to the near post and Sean Kelly arrived behind them to nod home. 2-1 Dons.

We could have scored another 2 or 3 but some good goalkeeping from Simon Eastwood kept is respectable.

Plus points: Stopped the rot. 4-3-3. Tom Elliot. The defence.

Minus points: starting slowly.

The referee’s a…: thought he handled the game well, dished out a few yellow cards but all well-deserved.

Them: don’t like it up ’em do they. I can’t be arsed to check but suspect most of their good results come against other ‘footballing sides’ whilst they’ll struggle against teams with a more physical approach.

Their supporters certainly didn’t enjoy their day out. Rather than understand their own teams shortcomings it was all down to our bully boy tactics, gamesmanship, dodgy pitch, shit away terrace blah blah blah.

Thanks for the 6 points chaps, see you next season.

Anything else: I thought our defence were outstanding yesterday. Best performances from Robbo and Bazzer in a while. Another solid game for Sean Kelly, he’s growing into that left-back role and could give Neal the Meades CM option if we don’t bring anyone in.

And Darius – what a change in the team’s character since he’s returned, not sure we’d have got through that game at Sutton without him and equally influential in getting the 3 points yesterday.

So will we do any business in January and more importantly what does Tuesday hold in store?

It’s no secret we are looking to strengthen in midfield. I understand we are looking at a player from a fellow League 1 club who’s out of contract at the end of the season.

More likely he’ll be a Summer addition but there’s a slim chance we’ll be able to bring him in before the end of the month.

And getting through Tuesday might well help with £200k riding on the game.

I see us having too much for Sutton in the replay. My only concern is that word ‘expectation’. But surely we can’t f@ck this one up.

Sutton will come at us hard so the opening 45 minutes will be tough. If 200 grand is decent money to us it’s serious big potatoes for our non-league oppo. I’ve seen it described as their biggest game since ’93 so they won’t be leaving anything out on that pitch.

We should have too much firepower and we’ll put this to good use as the part-timers begin to flag. We saw evidence of our superior fitness in the first game and eventually that and our quality will be the difference as we proceed to round 4.

So, was it worth it? Taking 6 points off Oxford, definitely.

In a nutshell: We’re back on track

You know when we finally beat York City, we ended up gubbing them almost every time after that? One has to wonder if the Footballing Gods finally stopped taking the piss at our expense.

But it’s been a long time coming, both in terms of beating them and indeed, getting a decent performance and win under our belts.

Make no mistake, we needed this badly. A glance at our results tells why, but it’s deeper than that – we’ve shat the bed so much in the last couple of months that I’m surprised we even remember what colour our duvet was originally.

If our recent form was akin to the beginning of the season, then maybe yesterday was the 2-1 win over Chesterfield? Or even Charlton the next game?

It’s not solving our issues on the road, needless to say, but right now we’re relying on our home form to bail us out.

Which to be fair it is. When I heard we went 1-0 down, I could sense the collective rolling of eyes and muttering. But when we soon equalised, then went ahead, even from afar it seemed like we weren’t going to lose it.

OK, we need to be more clinical when we do get more chances. And if it’s true that Shea was timewasting with more than ten minutes to go, we deserve to have it it bite us on the arse.

But it’s a welcome step in the right direction, and you would hope we’re on the upward spiral again. Even now, I don’t think we’re a bad side, but something has been missing.

What’s made our recent shit run worse was that it started to contradict all the positive things we’ve said about the team this season. That we’ve got a backbone, that we’re not readily intimidated, that kind of thing.

That’s slowly coming back again. And that’s probably why we should take the WPRA-esque whinging of the Oxford fans as a compliment.

Speaking of them, while we have some snowflakes as supporters ourselves, I would be embarrassed if any of our lot acted like some of theirs have in the last 24 hours.

And I’d like to know how Oxford can be defined as a “big club”. You can call Bolton, Sheff Utd, Coventry, perhaps Bradford, Charlton and Millwall as such, but our opponents yesterday?

They’ve spent as much time in non-league than they have in the top flight, certainly. Yes, their ground is bigger than ours, but then so is Gander Green Lane.

They’re not any bigger than Swindon or Brizzle Rovers, certainly not as prevalent as Reading, Then again, I remember similar snottyness towards us by York and Cambridge in recent years.

You can do the maths yourself. And stop laughing while you do.

Anyway, I digress. Are we physical? So what if we are? It’s League One after all, not La Liga. Long ball? Perhaps, and that’s not the first time that has ever been labelled against a team called Wimbledon.

We’re not dirty, which is something different altogether, and as we often used to say in the 1980s – what we’re doing is within the rules.

(OK, sometimes back then what we did wasn’t *exactly* within the laws of the game. But then, that era gave me my best ever period of watching Wimbledon, and I’m not going to sully that memory with mere facts…)

We don’t (or won’t) have a lot of money to spend on transfers, and as such pragmatism will always win out in that situation. Although it has to be said, some teams in L1 spend shitloads of money and don’t do it very well.

I’ll give you one example – their fans are acting like slapped arses right now. And complaining about the view yesterday. And other things besides…

As a collection of players, we got promoted last season, almost unexpectedly, and not for the first time in the AFCW era we’re adapting to a level a lot quicker than we expected.

Of course, if you want to start linking 2017 AFCW to 1980s WFC, it should be noted that like then, we do have some decently skilled players.

We need to rebuff all bids for Tom Elliott this transfer window, unless we want to rely on Barnett for the rest of the campaign.

If teams want to underestimate us, and fail to suss us out, that’s fine by me. And probably all of you, too. After all, a win is a feeling that never gets old.

Speaking of victories, one hopes this puts us into good stead for Tuesday. I hope we approach Sutton with the right level of professionalism, because if we hit them early with a goal or two, we can start planning for Lids.

While I wouldn’t entirely agree with their manager Doswell that we’re 90/10 to win (I’d have it down as 70/30), we should take our second chance this time.

The incentive for another juicy home tie in the 4th round should be enough, but I’d like to think a L1 side ought to dispose of a Conference one at the second time of asking.

Like STTA, I don’t doubt that we’ll be facing a Sutton side who will be well up for it. We can’t afford our usual slow start, and if they go 1-0 up early on it becomes a very long evening.

But if we approach it like the Bury replay, or even the last ten minutes at Curzon, then the only people who will be frustrated on Tuesday will be half-and-half scarf sellers…