Coming up: Accrington

The drop

The biggest game, massive, gigantic. If you needed any reminder of how massive this game is both fans and Michael Appleton have implored each other to understand its sheer massiveness.

Way to put pressure on everyone. Yes, a win would be particularly helpful against Accrington at this point in the season. But, Stanley are another of a succession on teams that have appeared in fourth place off the back of a half decent run, and the ineptitude of those around them; Mansfield (now 7th) and Bristol Rovers (8th) have both been our primary threat in recent weeks.

That implies to me that onky three teams have shown consistency this season, and the rest are typical of League 2, producing fitfully throughout the year.

There’s a particularly disingenuous piece in the Northampton Chronicle about Tuesday’s game, but one this Chris Wilder does say is that football is a physical, technical, tactical and psychological game; if we perform consistently in all four areas, then we should be just fine.

Old game of the day

Coming up – Northampton Town

The drop

A big game, but at the same time, not. In the greater scheme of the season, this will have little significance but  it is first versus third, maybe even a title decider, well, influencer a least. There’s a Chris Wilder factor; Oxford fans protest too much about how irrelevant he is. 
In some senses this is a battle of philosophies. New-Oxford is all modern and high-tech – act like a Premier League team and you’ll perform like one. Wilder’s Oxford was all about the right style in the right place. Every meeting with Wilder is a bit like showing off your new girlfriend to your old one. in the hope of proving that you were right to split up in the first place.
I don’t buy that Wilder was negative at Oxford; until the trials of London Welsh and the pitch took over, we played fast attacking football. It was only in the latter years that we had to keep the ball off the ground as much as possible. What’s more, his latest charges are the highest scoring team in the division.
I do think that we’re probably a better football team than Northampton because I think we’re the best football team in the division. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean we’re the best equipped to beat the teams we’re facing. We have shown a weakness for defending balls into the box, but we’ve shown that we can also play teams off the park particularly if they come to play rather than defend. I doubt Northampton, in their current position will come for a point. 
Let the philosophies clash.

Old game of the day

Coming up – Mansfield

The drop

I’m not bothered about winning the title. I’m really not. Perhaps it’s because it’s such a weird concept for us after more than 30 years of resolutely not winning titles. I figure the title is a by-product of winning promotion and that only after that happens do you start worrying about the top spot. By that point, of course, the title may be long gone, but if it isn’t then you have a little scrap over it. Just for bad.

So, at the moment, it’s all about looking down rather than up. We’ve only played three league games this year and, despite this, we remain 4 points clear with games in hand on all the teams around us.

The Mansfield game provides an opportunity to put more points into Bristol Rovers and Portsmouth, who you’d imagine are real contenders for the automatic places. It’s no gimme though; Mansfield are 4th although they’ve played three games more than us, and this will be the first game in a while where the Kassam with echo with Tuesday night disinterest. It’s going to be an interesting and very different test of our promotion credentials.

Old game of the day

Coming up – Portsmouth

The drop

Good lord it’s been a long month. Notts County into Swansea into Millwall into Bristol Rovers into Portsmouth. And if that’s not enough then it’s just the trifling matter of Blackburn next week, which, if you need reminding, replaced our game against second place Northampton. Who decided that was a good idea?

Portsmouth away would normally be considered a highlight of the season, but this season it just seems to be part of a dazzling glare of highlights.

It’s difficult to really work out what we’ll be facing on Saturday. In the three years Pompey have been in League 2, this year’s vintage seemed to be the best we’ve seen when they came to the Kassam in August. They’ve also lost the least number of games in the division, but they’ve drawn the most. They sit a threatening 5th, have just beaten Ipswich in the cup, but have only won four in the last 10.

We on the other hand, are still well placed in third we’re on the verge of a Wembley final, we’ve just beaten two teams from a higher division… but, we’re in comparatively poor run of League form. Although we’ve also enjoyed a much needed rest this week.

It’s all so confusing, I’m beginning to think this success lark isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Old game of the day

Coming up – Bristol Rovers

The drop

It’s been a dizzying week, and it concludes with, perhaps, the most important game of all. Rovers sit 5th, so no push-overs, Plymouth and Northampton continue to perform and Portsmouth seem to have revived themselves. But how can we go into this game with anything but the upmost confidence? We’re on a tidal wave at the moment, we need to surf it.

Rovers, as they always do, are bringing 2,000+ fans and we have responded after a plea from the chairman. To be honest, I don’t think he had that much to worry about, low ticket sales was less to do with ambivalence and more due to the fact that there had been so much focus on Swansea.

But still, if we do push the crowd over 10,000, then perhaps the tide will turn. There has been quite a lot of hand-wringing amongst more long standing fans about how the county appears to be ignoring this amazing season. Maybe it just needed two live TV wins over higher league opposition to tip people over the edge. You don’t ask much do you?

Old game of the day

Our first home game as a Football League club, having returned in 2010 was a League Cup tie against Rovers who at the time were in League 1. We came in hope rather than expectation, we slaughtered them.

Coming up: Wimbledon

The drop

This is a game that’s got a bit lost what with all the noise around the Swindon game. But it is more important in the great scheme of things. We’ve banked six points from two league games and with Plymouth and Leyton Orient coming up another three will make those games less fraught, particularly with Barnet at home at the end of the month, you might argue that a win in this game and that one will make the Plymouth and Orient results almost (but only almost) academic.

In many ways Tuesday was perfect; the atmosphere was amazing, the performance was flawless and the result, of course, couldn’t have been better. There will be a sense of ‘after the Lord Mayor’s Show’ about this one. That brings it’s own challenges, but I get a sense we can cope with that.

Old game of the day

Oxford v Wimbledon; the most 80s fixture in League 2? So, here’s a League Cup tie from 1987 which goes quite a long way in showing that being Against Modern Football doesn’t necessarily mean that old football was better.

Exhibit A is Wimbledon nearly scoring the most Wimbledony goal you’ll ever see from a Dave Beasant punt, and a goalmouth scramble at the end which wouldn’t look out of place in a park game. The only thing uglier than this game was Wimbledon’s red and green kit.

From the blog

When we faced Wimbledon on Boxing Day 2011, the stench of nostalgia was in the air.

“Sky’s Boxing Day treat for those suffering from turkey reflux was pure 80s throwback. It was a decision that can only have been made by those battling with the ills of their late-30s. That generation of eternal children, with their converse trainers and ironic t-shirts, who have surfed the property boom without ever having to grow up. Now, with the dawning of the age of austerity and the end of the consumer electronics orgy, these souls are lost. Christmas needs re-defining, and where better to look for it than the magical Christmases of their childhood when a pinstripe Liverpool shirt* as a present was the pinnacle of all life’s possibilities and Oxford and Wimbledon were resolutely top-flight.” 

Read on.