Yellows 1 Barrow 0

In the Dog Days of August and September the mood was buoyant. In part it was the sheer bloody relief that the season had promise. Confidence was growing, everyone was supping their fancy-Dan European lagers, wearing their shirtsleeves and going on about the strength of the squad. By November, the lager’s been replaced by doughty pints of The Parson’s Left Bollock and the mood has turned more sombre. A few injuries and suddenly the squads not good enough and we’re a bit stretched.

It was all feeling a bit ‘Brian Talbot’ as I trudged in sodden silence up the Grenoble Road on Saturday. We were on a (one game) losing streak, the pressure was on to get back to winning ways, we faced a gnarled northern opponent, key players were out and the weather was bad. Without strengthening, if you’re to believe the media, it seemed that relegation is almost inevitable. No doubt about it, this is us after all.

OK, yesterday’s win over Barrow lacked the fluidity and not a little of the sunshine of early season, but the squad proved more than capable of handling this kind of fixture. It was a 1-0 mauling, we tired and sat back in the latter stages, but that was down to the introduction by them of Paul Rutherford on the right and Jamie Cook’s inability in shutting him down. Rutherford helped push us back, but all-in-all, Barrow barely had a chance all game.

At right-back, Kevin Sandwich came in for ‘wee’ Stevie Kinniburgh. Wee Stevie is generally preferred to The Sandwich both in the stands and the dugout, but there’s not a lot between them.

The loss of an influence like Mark Creighton should hurt, but there was little to worry about. I particularly enjoyed ‘wee’ Ross Perry’s debut. There’ll be no nifty step-overs on the six-yard line from this man, if he goes for a clearance, he’s going to try and hit the moon with it. That’s my kind of defending.

Greedy Matt Green has been the difference between simply being top and being top and five points clear. His pace and ball carrying has given us another dimension in attack, one that nobody has lived with so far this season. Damien Batt is on pace and ball-carrying detail and both Constable and Midson stepped up their game yesterday. Whilst we were nowhere near as glossy as we’ve been with Greedy in the side, we missed him less than I’d anticipated.

What have Steve Wood, Wayne Biggins, Simon Marsh, Mark Jones and Brian McDermott all got in common? They were all players who played in our most successful seasons. When history re-writes these successes fringe players get wiped out. We will remember the first eleven, not the likes of Sandwich and wee Ross, but now we’re in the sludgey stage of the season their contribution will set us up for success or failure in April.

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Oxblogger is a blog about Oxford United.

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