The media clamour for referees to go on TV and explain their decisions misses the fact that the answer to a question like ‘why didn’t you give a penalty?’ is ‘because it wasn’t a foul’. That might sound evasive, but even if people disagree, the referee has absolute power on the pitch and no TV haranguing will change that. Getting a referee to explain a binary decision gets you nowhere.
It’s the same question repeatedly asked of the Oxford United hierarchy about James Roberts; ‘why isn’t he playing’ can be answered very simply; ‘because he’s not the best option’. What people really want to ask is ‘why don’t you just admit you’re wrong and we’re right?’. Perhaps the real question should be ‘what do Pat Hoban and Ryan Taylor bring to the team that James Roberts doesn’t?’.
The debate about Roberts was threatening to drive a rift between fans and management and our form wasn’t helping to douse the flames. We’ve just made friends, but it won’t take much for us to fall out again.
Context is everything, of course, and the month has been scattered with challenges that we didn’t have in August. But, regardless, for those wanting proof that Roberts’ absence was the problem, the results were there in black and white, even if there’s no evidence that he would have turned the tide.
The York City game was becoming a potential flashpoint and the result increasingly important. They were there to be beaten; we needed to 3 points to maintain our promotion hopes and appease the baying hordes. The announcement just before the game that Roberts was heading out on loan to Chester – lower half of the Conference – was an emphatic declaration that the debate was over. It was a brave move; had the result gone the wrong way, the tension could have erupted into open warfare.
So, it was more than encouraging to see us sweep past them like we did. Twice as many shots, four times as many on target, five times as many corners. Dominance like that is rare for Oxford United and despite the defensive clanger, it always felt like we were going to break through eventually.
Roberts’ loan and that victory will hopefully clear the air and prepare everyone for what’s to come. We play 2nd, 4th and 5th in October, so if you thought this month was tough, next month is worse. It’s good to be able to go into it united rather than at each others’ throats.