Has the season even started yet?

A run is at its most vulnerable at the point some idiot in some car somewhere says “bloody hell how many penalties has Ryan Clark saved this year?” or “James Constable’s goals must be close to a record” or when some teenager who is not otherwise capable of working out the relevance of maths education calculates the permutations required for us to be top of the league. At that point, when someone mentions you’re on a run, it’s usually over.

At the beginning of the season; when it hasn’t yet hit full-gas and the press don’t have enough stories; focus will inevitably be on one minor issue relating to the rules of the game or, alternatively, some statistically unsound evidence of form.

Such was the article in the Guardian following the game against Plymouth. As flattering as it was, the fact it was written should have been enough to send a shiver down the average fan’s spine, not to mention a creeping sense of foreboding.

Following that endorsement, the game against Leeds had all the classic elements of these early season League Cup ties. Our form helped build a ‘feeling’ that we could win and there was the lure of a big stadium we all wanted to believe would be packed to the rafters. Think of the show we’d put on. The reality was a off-the-shelf shoeing in a echoey cavern of a stadium.

A few days later and it was off to York. Perhaps we’re getting mentally fatigued by the expectations built through the run and the splattering of biggish games. The combination of injuries, expectation and Tuesday night – we had all, they had none – seemed to be the difference between the two teams.

To be frank we could do with the Swindon game like a hole in the head. It’s a game we wouldn’t typically have interest in. However, there is some expectation that we will put on a performance, after all, it is them. It will mean nothing in the context of the season; everyone would welcome a win, of course, but a third defeat in a row will bring pressures we don’t need right now

By the time we walk off the pitch against Swindon on Wednesday we will have played nearly as much football against teams in divisions above us, as we have against those in the same division. We should take these games with a pinch of salt; this isn’t about results, more about finding (or re-finding) our feet.

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Oxblogger is a blog about Oxford United.

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