Accrington wrap – Oxford United 1 Accrington Stanley 2

Football fans are pretty unforgiving, despite the gasps every time the ball hung in the air from a goal kick on Saturday, the assessment of our performance against Accrington completely discounted the impact the wind had on the game.

First half with the wind at our backs we looked OK, but with the wind in our faces we looked like we were running into a brick wall. Some viewed it as a sign of fatigue, which may be true, although I think mental fatigue is probably a bigger factor right now. The difference between the two teams was not who was more fresh or who had more skill, but who managed the conditions best.

In the first half, Accrington positioned two players on the edge of their own box at goal kicks to guard against the ball not making it out of their half. At one point when playing with the wind they put a player on the edge of our box, way beyond our back line. They knew that the ball would get caught in the wind and the player on the edge of the box meant that Dunkley and Mullins had to deal with it or let it through for a chance on goal.

Once they’d equalised, which was an absolute shambles from our perspective, Stanley could play conservatively – a point would have been fine. They used the wind to get the ball forward and put pressure on us to play, and, because of the way we play with lots of short passing, wait for the possibility of us making a mistake.

Which is where the problems start, we have a playing philosophy which doesn’t account for the conditions its played in. They, on the other hand, played the game that was in front of them. I suppose the idea is that our system should work more often than not. It’s the kind of philosophy that might work for a middle ranking Premier League team whose definition of success is maintain a level of consistency which ensures you don’t fail. But, for a team looking for promotion, can we really afford to wait for the conditions be right for us to succeed?

It’s a gamble, although we’re moving towards March when conditions should start to suit us more. But, if we have too many more games like Saturday we’re going to have to decide whether we want to lose pretty or win ugly.

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Oxblogger is a blog about Oxford United.

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