Jordan Graham lost his head; two silly bookings leading to a red card leaving us with 10 men against a resurgent Orient with 25 minutes to go. The second one was harsh. It’s the football equivalent of Heath and Safety Regulations; there for a good reason but with its original purpose – to prevent players from booting the ball out of the ground – largely forgotten. How much time was lost from Graham flicking the ball away? Nothing in comparison to the referee completing his admin on the red card.
Graham is an intuitive player, his game isn’t based on tactical discipline, if it were he’d be less effective. It’s a game of pace and a joy of being on the ball. The kick looked little more than his subconscious doing what it’s been trained to do – see a ball and do something with it. He’s apologised as though he’s committed some kind of hate crime. Which is frankly ridiculous. What he gives far outweighs what we lose. Why are we putting players under pressure to act like members of the clergy?
The fans lost their heads, the game seemed to be positioned as some kind of revenge mission for what happened in 2006. But is there anyone who believes that our relegation was their fault? Seats were broken, although it seems it wasn’t done out of malice. That said, it is quite possible to avoid breaking seats at football, as my 30 years of not breaking seats all over the country testifies – and there was a mood around the game that wasn’t pleasant. This isn’t cool. We’re about to enter an almighty shit fight for promotion; you can treat it like a war or like the best fun its possible to have.
Radio Oxford lost their heads; the commentary between Jerome Sale and Nathan Cooper increasingly went down conversational cul-de-sacs like two drunk mates in a pub managing to stray onto a subject obviously wrong or offensive, then spending 20 minutes convincing themselves it was less offensive than it was meant to be.
At one point Pat Hoban broke free rounded the keeper and fell to the floor. Jerome Sale, who had spent 20 minutes building his case against the referee, said that there had to be consistency with a previous incident that had gone against Oxford. Nathan Cooper said it was a dive, Sale agreed, but still, he said, the ref had to be consistent and he wasn’t so it was everything was his fault. Being consistently wrong is better than being occasionally wrong?
Will Michael Appleton lose his head? It seems unlikely, he is relentlessly level headed and despite the frustration of this game specifically, he still knows that taking a point from a promotion rival is a positive.
I hope he realises that many around him won’t be quite so measured. This is not exactly familiar territory for us. This game, and Tuesday’s against Plymouth, have the potential for paltry returns, and that’s when panic could set in. But, after Tuesday, the highest place team we play until the end of November is Cambridge in 14th. It’s a fixture list consisting of games against 17th, 19th, 20th, 23rd and 24th. With points-aplenty on offer in the coming weeks, is the objective for Orient and Plymouth, given we’re currently on 10 from 12 this month, a bucketful of points or to go into November with clear heads and good focus?