A small glimpse of Smalley?

The Internet doesn’t record the details, it doesn’t do that kind of thing. As a result, history has all but forgotten the game when Matt Murphy became a genius.

Murphy was the high priest of frustration. Playing in a half decent team he was the utility man, the spare part, the player who was good, but not quite good enough. He didn’t score goals like Paul Moody, he didn’t lock up the midfield like Dave Smith or Martin Gray and he didn’t create like Joey Beauchamp. He did all of those things, just not very well. To be fair we would probably kill for a player of his quality nowadays but at the time he was the most frustrating player in the squad.

The records tell us he’s our 10th highest ever goalscorer. That was because he had the canny lack of hitting a degree of moderate form at the end of every season; this alone seems to be the deciding factor in the renewal of his contract time and again.

As for his moment of genius, the sharpness of the image has faded over the years, I can’t remember the opponents or the year, but the smell, feelings, spirit, aura of the occasion remain with me. there were passes around the corner, probing runs and at least one heavy legged back heel.

As much as a former bank clerk from Corby can be, he was unplayable. the fact that performance remains etched in my memory has to put it up there amongst the greatest I have seen.

Except, after 20 minutes he pulled up with a hamstring strain and had to be substituted.

Was Dean Smalley’s performance during the 2-1 win over Plymouth the repeating of history? Did we see one of the great first half performances from a player whose Oxford career has frustrated all, including himself? A glimpse into nirvana, for a moment it seemed like Smalley was the answer to the Constable dilemma – a genuine alternative up front – but with his injury and half time substitution will he ever get to recreate it, let alone sustain, it?

In the first half we looked the efficient unit that has been a characteristic of our early season form. But, the second half, having lost Smalley and Forster-Caskey last seasons frailties emerged. Constable did OK, albeit as a target rather than a goal threat. However, Heslop and Pittman are not as neat and tidy as those they replaced. As a result we lapsed into a degree of complacency and over-rewarded Plymouth for their persistence with a goal (it was a decent strike, but we’d unnecessarily given them the territory they needed to set it up). Then the panic set in it, an uncomfortable meeting of past and present, like Marty McFly being fondled by his mum in Back to the Future.

Like Murphy’s 20 minutes of genius, or Smalley’s near perfect first half; the moments of brilliance can be fleeting. 3 games, 3 wins, now is not the time to be complaining.

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Oxblogger is a blog about Oxford United.

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