Millwall wrap – Oxford United 1 Millwall 2

On Saturday night while with friends, the Sam Feldt version of Show Me Love came on the stereo. If you’re not familiar with the name, you’ll know the tune. It’s the one that was played last season during the players’ presentation. It stirs the emotions; a reminder of a magical time, the best season we’ve had in my lifetime.

I miss last season, although that’s partly because I know how it turned out. What makes it even more remarkable is that the season before that was so dismal. As bad as any in my lifetime. Most managers wouldn’t have survived such awfulness, in fact, I’m pretty sure we were the lowest placed team in the division not to sack our manager that year.

It took a brave decision to stick with Michael Appleton, but it worked spectacularly; a two-year plan that came good.

This season has been fitful, nowhere near as bad as Appleton’s first year, nowhere near as good as his second. But are we just at the start of another two-year cycle?

I’ve always thought that Appleton’s preferred system is a team that moves the ball around quickly creating chances for a big unit up front. The principle is that if that unit doesn’t score, he creates enough mayhem to allow the midfield playing around him to pick up the pieces.

Going right back to the loan signings of Carlton Morris and Tyrone Barnett, Michael Appleton has constantly been in the market for a goalscoring lump. Ryan Taylor and Danny Hylton did it to some degree last season, but we’ve yet to find a sustainable solution. He’d have loved Paul Moody.

The performance against Millwall was, generally, pretty good; 64% of the possession, 12 chances to their 7, 9 corners to their 2. But they were more direct and more efficient in front of goal. As a rule, we do everything right, but we’re just not quite up to it physically – more muscle upfront and we’d be there, I think.

Whether we’ll sort the striking issue out before the season peters out is another question. We’re about to enter a particularly fractured phase in the season; last year between the 1st Round of the Cup and our semi-final second leg against Millwall in February we played nearly as many cup games as we did league games. Will we be able to get a settled team with so much disruption in the schedule?

While we’ve spluttered a bit so far I suspect, like Appleton’s first year, we’ll start to see the shoots of what he’s hoping to achieve from February onwards. If, as he suggests, there are 14 teams looking to put a run together for the play-offs, then we might still have a late surge. More likely, this season is simply going to become a foundation for next.

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Oxblogger is a blog about Oxford United.

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