X Factor Live

It’s been a bleak few years for teams with an ‘x’ in their name. There was a time when no fewer than five teams carried the magical letter through the league – an oddity that featured in many editions of Question of Sport. Now only two survive; and things aren’t looking good for Wrexham.

A nod to the golden age of league clubs with an x in their name is the only reason I can think of for SKY broadcasting the Halifax game live. SKYs schedulers know little of what’s happening outside their self styled ‘grand slam league’ of Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal so any reason’s a good reason.

Of course, it’s more likely simple economics; Oxford have a relatively big fan base, Conference football is cheap so a midweek game up north in a barren week fills a gap in their schedules and might even have some mugs watch.

First half
The Shay looks bleak, the pitch is like a potato patch, it’s a sorry sight and you wonder whether there’s any hope for them at all. All hail those Us who have made it against all odds and logic. Halifax look awful. We look OK, The big Zebroski, making his debut, looks mobile and mildly threatening but there’s a lack of urgency all round. One assumes the plan is to unleash Yemi once Robinson and Zebroski have worn the Shayman down. We have a ball cleared off the line after the ‘expert analyser’ claims Halifax were looking the more threatening (though looking at the clock, the game was 35 seconds old at the time).

Zebroski twice goes close. For them. Slicing the ball over the bar then into Turley‘s hands. The game – laughingly billed as ‘massive for both sides’ by the commentary team – has a ‘so what’ quality about it. We’ve edged the first half, no doubt, a bit more application should see us home…

Second half
Goal. Robinson does exactly what everyone moans at him for – acts like a battering ram. The Big Man Up Front will always look like a lumbering oaf most of the time (read: Moody, Alsop)- but there’s a logic to his presence and it’s paid off this time.

There’s a moment of excitement as I make a cup of tea and have two ginger nut biscuits. We contrive to put the ball in our own net, again, but Billy Turley makes a great save. Then, finally Halifax have a shot and score. Its barely deserved, because they’ve looked soporific throughout.

Fifteen minutes to go; must be getting close to Yemi-time, though perhaps Halifax are little too lively and we need to settle things down a bit first.

Ten minutes to go, and things have settled down, yet there’s still no Yemi. There’s no shape either and as usual, we’re suffering in the melee. It’s difficult to know if either team is going for a win. Our expert analyser is claiming nerves, but more likely it’s just that neither side has much of a clue about how to go about winning it.

Five minutes to go. It’s not been a bad performance, but we’re not looking threatening anymore, surely it’s time for a change. Zebroski has gone quiet. Perhaps Jim Smith has decided a point will do and is giving the front two ‘game time’… The point will probably do; the required run-rate to ensure a play-off position is fairly low so an away point is probably OK. The gap to sixth will be 9 points, with goal difference it’s effectively 10.

Complacency nearly bites us on the arse again, only a great block by Luke Foster prevents a goal. Injury time slips through the fingers like sand and the referee signals for everyone to go home as Hargreaves takes a ball up the arse.

1-1, generally forgettable; impossible to know what it all means in terms of our form going into the play-offs. The next two games will be an better test. 2 defeats in 10 is decent form, and you suspect that Jim Smith is protecting the walking wounded whilst sharpening up the newcomers and recent returners. You would hope for a bit of ramping up on Monday.