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Though love certainly wasn’t in the air today…

So, the last PSF of 2022 is over, and after Gone Down 0 Not Going Up 0 I have to admit I feel a bit more confident than this time last week.

And yes, I know it couldn’t have got any worse.

Presumably this is closest to the starting XI that will face Gillingham, and to be fair we gave a decent account of ourselves.

Bit niggly though, and I’m taking bets on when Assal gets his first red card in 22/23. I’m going for Hartlepool away.

We looked OK in the first half, and rather promisingly didn’t manage to balls it up soon after the restart.

Though we then conceded a penalty. Which Tzanev saved, and if that doesn’t do his confidence any good…

Davison looked OK up front, the defence looks a bit more solid – though Oxford tested us a bit more than I would have liked .

Oh, and Kyle Hudlin came on. He looked like a pipecleaner and needs to get a few concrete sandwiches down him.

Won a header or two though, though I can’t help think we need another striker as he’ll likely come off the bench.

We almost won it at the end, I forget who shot but their keeper made a good save.

And that’s really that.

JJ himself seems happy, and he must be thinking the ground work showed the first signs of paying dividends.

Pre-season is, er, pre-season and it remains the phoniest of phoney wars.

As we all know, it’s not solely about fitness and you see the warning signs ahead even during the games that don’t matter.

But you want improvements, and today was better than Reading. Which was better than this time last weekend.

I’m more than happy we didn’t get gubbed and played badly to boot. There’s still a bit to be done, but I didn’t have that uneasy feeling I got after the tractor drivers last week.

Or indeed, any pre-season game this time last year…

Plus points: We didn’t lose. Kept clean sheet. Looking more like a unit. Defensively a bit better. Tzanev penalty save.

Minus points: We didn’t win. Couldn’t find the net.

The referee’s a…: When you book players in a PSF, you’re probably trying a bit too hard as match official.

Them: While you can’t fully judge at this stage, I would bet that they’ll be a L1 side more than Ipswich will be this time next year.

They were OK, and maybe they had better quality, but they didn’t look significantly superior to us.

And this against a sizeable part of a squad that still hasn’t won since December 7th 2021.

Games like this make me annoyed that we fucked 2021/22 up so badly, because if L1 is going to be Oxford’s standard we’d survive.

Not many of their fans, but then how many would we take to the Kassam in a similar situation?

The main attraction was Karl Robinson, who like Steve Evans must secretly enjoy the attention he gets.

It was all a bit half-hearted towards him, really, which probably left him disappointed. Shame.

Point to ponder: Are we ready for life again in League Two?

The answer is – sort-of.

If today is the standard we’ll see throughout most of the campaign, we’ll be all right and not bothering the relegation zone one bit.

Whether it’s enough to get us heading upwards again won’t be known until November, if not later.

I do think though we need at least a couple more additions, preferably along the Gunter/Pearce lines.

Terry “Bad Cop” Skiverton hinted just as much in the preview on Friday, and today doesn’t change that need.

We won’t be the only side who hasn’t completed their summer transfers, and by the middle of the month we’ll know what else we need.

The important thing short-term is that we can field a side that might actually win a game.

And that’s really what our main roadblock is right now.

Those there from the last campaign must be wondering what it’s like to finish the contest with three points.

That’s still a bulk of the squad, despite getting shot of so many players and with five new players having some part this afternoon.

When that first victory since the old King was alive comes, it’s going to be such a cathartic outpouring of frustration and emotion from everyone.

And if it comes with a last-gasp winner against Gills in SW17, we’ll need to get the structural engineers in pronto…

Truth is stranger than fiction: 1) “Songbird” by Kenny G over the PA during the first half drinks break. Somehow, it seemed apt. 2) AFCW/WFC flag in one of the flats behind the away end. Belongs to the ladies physio, apparently.

Anything else? I suppose we’re ready mentally to start the nine-month grind again.

Six pre-season friendlies seems to be enough**, and we’ve definitely shown an improvement.

** – might have mentioned this before, but it always un-nerved me under MR that he felt three PSFs were sufficient.

At last year’s MTM, he reckoned there was nothing in a lot of those games that couldn’t be done on the training ground.

I shudder to think how underbaked we would be right now if he was still here.

But three months since Accrington at PL, it’s time to dip our toe back into competitive fixture waters.

There’s a lot of bad taste from last season still to be exhaled, and that’s only going to happen once we start playing and winning.

Really, I just want to start getting into the proper action now, where a result like today actually matters.

I doubt if I’m alone saying I could have happily had another six months away from football after the Accrington game.

In recent years, I’ve almost been disappointed when the campaign started again, because I enjoyed not having weekends ruined.

This time round, I don’t feel like that. I just want to see us being competitive, and there’s a good chance we can do that in 22/23.

It may be misplaced optimism. But it’s better than the opposite…

So, was it worth it? It’s still pre-season. Just.

In a nutshell: Roll on next Saturday.

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