Cambridge United 1 Yellows 1, Yellows 2 Lewes 1

Gordon Brown has been warning against protectionism in the fight against recession. I understand the general mechanics of the global economy and how protectionism is the antithesis of wealth creation, but there is a lot of appeal in concerning yourself with only what is close to home.

Half way through the second half today I found myself feeling anxious. The Farrell/Murray partnership hadn’t done enough damage up front for Yemi to exploit and it seemed the gameplan, and with it the win, had gone to pot.

Although we eventually camped in their penalty box and drew blood to take the win, my anxiety wasn’t born out of the impact the draw would have on the season. That’s a side issue for me. My anxiety resulted from a fear of destroying our fragile confidence. I’m wasn’t interested in where it took us in the league; I just wanted to continue the satisfaction of watching winning football.

For too long we have watched the world conspire against us to throw us into the pits of hell. Such has been the procession of awfulness, even the most logically minded of us can begin to feel as though a greater force is dictating our future. This season, I suppose, it has been. It was noticeable today on the radio that the team news was trumped by team-sheet news – they’ve added a column for player registration numbers.

This news proceeded Nick Harris’ typically tortuous pre-match metaphors – last week this game was like Barak Obama, this week like the Nadal/Federer match in the Australian Open.

He’s rather like a kindly reverend – what he says is of no consequence, but his confused naivety is reassuring. He seems utterly bamboozled by the modern world – constantly referring to the ‘Blue Circle Premiership’ and getting every name he utters confused – swatting away his befuddlement as though correctness belongs to another generation. If the world’s greater forces are at work Nick Harris has long given up trying to understand them.

These forces were at work on Tuesday so blame me for the Cambridge draw. I stumbled on an online free stream of the game just as some bloke I vaguely recognise as an ex-pro who probably played in the East Midlands was claiming he could only see Oxford extending their lead. Within three minutes Billy Turley had tipped two stinging shots over the bar, the third flew in. I guess it’s penance for watching an illegal hook-up of the game.

So, the world is too big and confusing, I would rather just protect what I have – and if home wins is all I have, that’ll do for now.

Yellows 3 Cambridge 1

“Fuck Setanta and fuck Tuesday’s” is what some wag behind me said as we left the Kassam on Tuesday with a 3-1 win.

Well exactly. And fuck financial problems. As unpleasant as our current off-the-field situation is, there is still no reason why we shouldn’t be able to compete with every other team in the division.

This was my previous assertion about 100% effort, 0% fear in action. Joe Burnell set an example with his scything tackle after 15 seconds. The burden of a booking of no consequence, when you’re setting a tone for your team. Constable and, in particular, Guy were tireless, every time they looked like they’d finally run out of steam, they’d spring to life and create more trouble. Brilliant.

So, what a difference a fit Billy Turley, Phil Trainer, Jamie Guy and James Constable make. What a difference an in-form Adam Murray and Chris Carruthers make. What a difference an unsuspended James Clarke and Luke Foster make.

Which is probably the biggest concern; getting their form, fitness and discipline on an even keel for enough of the season to make an impact.

Us 1 Cambridge 2

What did Courtney Pitt ever do to Oxford? He played just five games for us and yet he’s been vilified for it ever since.

Pitt’s problem was that he was Graham Rix’s man and embodied everything Rix stood for. Rix himself was the great white hope who would take us to the Promised Land. He took over from Ian Atkins who, though successful, was too agricultural for Oxford fans. But with Atkins addressing our prolonged slump, Rix was scheduled to continue that work but more in the traditional Oxford style.

Not only was Pitt the embodiment of Rix on the pitch, he was a winger and wingers are a Us fans’ wet dream. He was rubbish, he wasn’t the first rubbish player to pull on a yellow shirt, nor was he the last, but because he was Rix’s man, because he was a winger, and because he was unable to herald this new dawn, he‘s been hated.

What’s more, he occasionally reappears at the Kassam. At first, he was still rubbish, then he looked competent, and now he’s looking a world beater. Courtney Pitt (and an overweight Courtney Pitt at that) has proved our crap-barometer. We can check how bad we are, by judging how comparatively good Courtney Pitt got. I don’t blame him for goading the home fans during last night’s game. In the end we’re the losers, not him.

We’re looking marginally better each week, and perhaps deserved a little more that we got. Draws are often described in terms of who held who. The holder, being the weaker than the held. Last year, for example, Dagenham held us, had we drawn last night it would have been a case of us holding them. It’s a subtle thing, but there’s we’re still some way from us moving from being an improving team to a winning team.

Cambridge United 2 Us 1

I didn’t see anything of Thursday’s match, and now it’s hidden behind the ugly high wall of Setanta Sports, it’s not likely that I ever will. However, to concede a last minute goal, suggests a lack of maturity at the back. Something that was obvious after the goal against Forest Green last week. The panic suggested we were under attack from Japanese kamikaze pilots.

In the context of the season, the defeat may not do us any harm. It’s good to get the delusions of invincibility out the way early. I’m happy to sit in the pack for the first third of the season as long as we’re able to utilise our strength in depth approaching Christmas. Big if, but in comparison to last year, where the pedestal we put ourselves on got taller and more precarious, something about this season feels a bit more comfortable.

I don’t intend to subscribe to Setanta. The temptation is there, of course, but something about it doesn’t feel right. Reading Jim Smith’s comments about the deal the BSP has done with them makes the blood run cold. It seems their intention is to jazz things up with pitch side interviews and changing room cams. Why do they feel the need to do this? This is a serious business to those of us who consider it serious; for the disinterested, it is completely baffling where the interest lies. It can’t be sexed up.

Farce-ity match

The sun and lack of wind allowed a beatific calm to descend over the Kassam on Saturday. What with both team and tactics that could have been chosen by an online vote; Yemi in, Burgess out, 4-4-2; it was a strangely dispassionate atmosphere all round.

4-4-2 was not the golden goose it’s been vaunted to be, but it did offer simplicity. 5-3-2 relies on having a good football brain which comes with experience and good training. For example, early in the season, when 5-3-2 was working well, the left hand side was our strength; both Brevett and Johnson understood the system and used it well. Anaclet, on the other hand, struggled and was caught out of position. Now, with the system not working, Anaclet looks stronger because, perhaps, he has more raw talents; pace, dribbling.

Cambridge offered little; they were impotent up front, unable to lock down defensively when they went a goal up. Their aggression was limited to off the ball stuff; rarely in the context of the game.

Where all this leaves us, who knows, but I’m pretty sure my long standing assertion that February is our pre-season; re-grouping and finding form, March will define where our destiny lies. It was always going to be a Anaclet goal or a Tardif back-heel that was going to break the run, rather like in 96/97 a six game goaless streak was broken against Stoke by Martin Gray one of only 4 goals he ever scored for us.

As an aside; interesting article in yesterday’s Guardian by Russell Brand about the sudden dawning of where West Ham‘s season is going. Replace the words ‘West Ham’ with ‘Oxford’ and ‘relegation’ with ‘staying down’ and it could have been written by us.