It’s a kind of magic

Although every club would like to have a romantic notion of the FA Cup, Oxford’s relationship with it has been pretty poor really. It’s not a surprise, in the last twenty years we’ve only played 8 home ties on a Saturday. Two of those were against non-league teams (Morecambe in 1999 and Dorchester in 1995).

It’s been eleven years since we played a league team (Northampton in 1995), and I personally haven’t seen a home FA Cup tie on a Saturday, for a variety of reasons, since we lost 2-1 to Chelsea in 94. And even then, I missed the kick-off.

There have been some pluses, I enjoyed going to Eastbourne last year, the Swindon win and visit to Highbury was good, nearly beating Chelsea and equalising in the last minute at Nottingham Forest were highlights, Watford not so because they postponed the first game at the last minute and couldn’t get the floodlights on in the second.

Perhaps the most memorable FA Cup moment came after the rip-snorting 3-3 draw with Millwall. A last minute equaliser direct from a corner by Bobby Ford sealed it. As I walked back to the station I watched as a Millwall fan demanded his wife walked in the street rather than the pavement as some kind of penance for their abject display.

The big one?

How do SKY choose their games? There seems to be three criteria; firstly there are the top games that always get selected involving any two of Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool. After that it becomes slightly more arbitary; games are picked on the basis of last season’s result and most bizarre of all, there are the games which you might describe as a ‘spurious derby’ the biggest example being Aston Villa v West Ham which is always shown live on the basis of them both playing in the same colours.

The media, notoriously lazy in such things, would probably choose to screen Cambridge v Oxford on SKY, should the teams be in such a position. Apparent rivalry stemming, of course, from the universities.

Naturally, there is no such rivalry, but perhaps it’s the reason last night’s game against the boys from just up the A4144, A44, A34, M40, A43, M1, A45, A14, A1307, A1134, A1303, was moved to a Friday night, for fear of trouble or something.

Still, a controlled destruction ensued, showing the importance of Rufus Brevitt in the team.

Dagenham: Win, Lose or Draw

The undoubted tie of the round, we’ve drawn Dagenham away in the cup. But, do we want to win it?

A place in the first round proper, back with our ‘own’. An opportunity to test our progress. A psychological blow to our closest rivals. But it’s another game we barely need though it’s the FA Cup, everyone wants to win the FA Cup. But it’s still a long way from anything remotely resembling an interesting tie.

If you’re the biggest team in the draw and you’re going to be beaten you might as well be beaten by the second biggest team. A clear head for the real objective of the season; do we want a energy sapping cup run, no matter if it ends in glorious defeat at The Emirates? But its more strength to the arm of the ne’er-do-wells who claim us fancy dans like us don’t like it up us. Undermining our flying confidence.

Another game, more niggle, fake rivalry.

On balance? A win. A draw with Nottingham Forest away in the 1st round. Then knocked out with a dubious last minute penalty.

Crisis? What crisis?

Is this the slump? 3 draws from 4 games, with Southport, Kidderminster and Altrincham, all looking beatable on paper.

So what’s gone wrong (listen to us, ‘WRONG?’ wrong is what happened last season). Firstly, we’re missing Rufus (and Gavin Johnson). Matt Day is an adequate replacement in a defensive role but going forward his passing and crossing is nowhere near as consistent. With Anaclet on the right still not quite producing when it matters, it puts more pressure on Andy Burgess whilst also offering less outlets for his passing. Yesterday Jim Smith started with Anaclet on the left, perhaps trying to release Odubade and Pettefer on the right, but it didn’t really work.

Secondly, we’ve got to start quicker. Odubade is best used later in the game after Basham and Duffy (or Robinson) have worn the opposition down. There’s no point in having his pace in the side when we spend the opening half an hour stroking the ball from flank to flank. Against Southport we were caught out by an early sucker punch. Yesterday they simply dug in during the second half and picked up the luckiest penalty.

Altrincham had an eck-ee-thump working class quality about them. Their manager made comments about Oxford needing to learn that they’ll get kicked to bits by teams like them (presumably to teach us aristocrats a lesson or something) then the website bleats on about ‘disgraceful’ Oxford fans laying siege to the North Stand waiting for their fans. It’s a bit depressing to hear a team with such a lack of ambition about them; kicking people isn’t something to be proud of and fans being subject to fairly standard crowd control procedures is hardly Heysel. It sounds like they simply don’t want the imposition of bigger crowds, more professionalism, better quality players that former league clubs bring with them when relegated. Well, the only way to do that is to stop relegation and promotion between the League and the Conference.

Perhaps it is the slump, but given we’re talking about a run of draws, not defeats, it could be one of those slumps that all champions have at some point. Chelsea drop points and then Sky suggest that if they continue to lose and an improbable set of results occur behind them then the championship may become vaguely interesting. What then usually happens is that Chelsea win their next game 4-0, others drop more points and the status quo is restored. Well, Dagenham can’t keep winning, we’re not losing, we’re still two points clear, here’s to Friday.

Duff’ed up

A busy week at work and a weekend away means I’m a bit behind on the Oxblogger front.

The Southport game was like one of those Friday nights down the pub. You look forward to it, all the ingredients of a good night are there, but when you actually get to it you feel a bit tired and it’s all a bit flat.

Oxford started slowly and lethargically, there was no rhythm, even the clapping in the Oxford Mail stand was stuttering and off beat. You hope, in cases like that, that they might snap out of it or get away with a half without conceding. When you concede within two minutes it suddenly gets hard, the game plan goes out the window and everything becomes an uphill struggle.

The worry, of course, is that the wheels are starting to fall off. Especially when both goals expose the same weakness and the next game is away. It was a relief for such a quick return to form albeit against a team described by my Tamworth fan brother-in-law ‘a village side’.

Why has the season been so hectic? It’s easy to forget that it’s is less than two months old because we’re already 14 games in. Perhaps it’s to get games out the way before the winter starts to bite, or maybe its to create some positive cash flow after the summer. Either way it’s a breakneck season, although to be honest, for me, the sooner its over the better.

League of our own?

Another three points and eight points ahead. Whilst the win stretches our lead to eight points it reinforces our position in the netherworld of league football.

Having been banished to the naughty step by the Football League, the Conference has been less than welcoming. We’ve ruined ‘their’ season, according to Nigel Clough who thinks the league is all but done and dusted. We’re arrogant and we’re disrespectful according to fans. You start to understand what it must be like to be a Chelsea fan.

Of course, what Chelsea have done is singularly ignored any of the criticism and continued their cynical ways. Which is something we surely want to avoid. Barcelona, on the other hand, manage their external image in exemplary fashion; the club is owned by its fans, the only shirt sponsor they’ve entertained is UNICEF and they play open attacking football. It just shows that good guys can win sometimes.

There are plenty of Oxford fans who are drinking in this season’s success, and who can blame them after the wilderness years. But in the end, nobody really likes a team who dominate in the way we are at the moment. But on the otherhand, there’s no point in losing is there?

Teams in this position need to think on a higher level; you don’t just win, but you win fairly and well. Yesterday’s performance was excellent, few can have any complaints. However, Rufus Brevett wouldn’t have made any friends when after the second goal when he ran a full fifty yards back from celebrating with Andy Burgess. For no obvious reason he chose to take a route between the two York players waiting to restart. Running between them he rolled the ball about two feet from its spot forcing the York strikers to retrieve it. It was totally pointless and very arrogant, but it was funny.