Yellows 1 Kettering Town 1

There are few more endearing images in Oxford’s history than Nick Harris at the Milk Cup Final patrolling the Wembley running track with an enormous portable radio transmitter on his back. Nowadays that amount of technology can be fitted into your average iPod Shuffle, back then it was like seeing a lower league funded moon landing.

Perhaps this is what inspired Radio Oxford to employ (Kass Stad) Kate Adams as a post-match roving reporter. Unlike Nick Harris, Adams is a pretty blonde, which seems like a low pre-requisite for a radio career. I guess the boys – who you get the impression don’t tend to talk to girls much – like having her around; you’re only as young as the woman you feel and all that.

There is presumably a panel of linguists and football historians working on the questions she asks of passing fans. The sheer banality of her approach cannot be the work of one person alone.

On Saturday she asked “We’ve got one point against Kettering, is that enough?” (or something). One punter, no doubt dragging his fists along the floor as he hauled his club foot towards her, claimed that the Kettering result was proof that we wouldn’t even make the play-offs.

Now, I know better than to take any notice of this carnival of morons, but this view seemed indicative of those being shared around the ground.

But let’s think this through, the Hayes result was a freak, everything about it was so strange that it’s difficult to include it in any reasonable analysis. Kettering, on the other hand, have the best away record in the league, and on this basis it wasn’t unreasonable to think that a draw was a possible, even likely, outcome.

There was comment that we needed Constable, Murray and Potter back. Well, those three haven’t played together for two months. To lose players like them is going to have an impact, you can’t just replace them like for like.

Some people have thrown in the towel even though there’s we’re one point short with a quarter of the season still to play. And the only team that are close to us, Stevenage, are demonstrating form no team in any league would live with.

And, even if the title is beyond us, there’s a route to the Football League via the play-offs – surely it’s by any means possible.

Fans are rarely objective enough to be self critical, but if we’re to throw our toys out of the pram every time things start to turn against us, then we’re deserving of everything we get. If we can’t win the title by 15 points, well, we don’t want to play anymore. We can’t claim to be loyal Oxford fans simply because we’re prepared to turn up to games when it’s a bit chilly.

Yellows 2 York 1, Kettering 1 Yellows 1, Histon 3 Yellows 4

There is no greater sporting spectacle than the Tour de France. This year Mark Cavendish won six stages finishing 131st, whilst fellow Brit Bradley Wiggins won none and finished fourth. It was a great British performance but also illustrates the key to our season.

To finish well in the overall race (General Classification or GC) you need to know when to attack. If you compete in the sprints, as Cavendish does brilliantly, you’ll get a lot of glory but no time benefits because everyone finishes together.

However, it is in the mountains and during time trials where time and the GC is won or lost. This year was no exception; early on Cavendish took stage after stage, while the main contenders remained pretty anonymous choosing to stay out of trouble, away from crashes and not use too much energy.

On the stage 15 to Verbier the true race for the GC, began to emerge. A group of riders hit the final climb of the stage; the elevation and speed began to tell and the also-rans fell away (including Cavendish who smiled knowingly as he let the others ride away). Eventually, the only riders left were the giants of the tour – Alberto Contador, Lance Armstrong, the Frank and Andy Schleck and Bradley Wiggins. They weren’t mucking around at the back of the field; when others cracked; they were ready to capitalise.

On the penultimate stage to Mont Ventoux, the pretenders and also-rans again fell away leaving the big five to fly up its slopes. Contador was mercurial in his victory, Wiggins immense. These two stages, plus two time trials, decided the whole race. The rest was about being sensible and strategic and not losing focus of the overall goal.

The Tour teaches us a good lesson about our season. Storming into an early lead sets expectations, grubbing around with also-rans brings about doubt and pressure. Early on we should be happy to stay amongst those who will eventually compete for the title. Us, Luton and the re-constructed Cambridge look like the ones to keep an eye on for now, Altrincham would appear to be doing a Cavendish, basking in some short term glory, but they should fall away eventually.

Following a home and away win (two potential demons out of the way) bookending the 1-1 draw at Kettering and we are ‘in-play’. We don’t want to be leading from the front too early even though it’s conceivable we will be before the end of the week. This will bring its own expectations and pressures and we’d do well to remember that conceding the lead this early in the season will do us little harm.

Our Verbier and Ventoux is likely to be between the Cambridge game on 19th December and AFC Wimbledon on the 23rd February. That’s when the title race should be decided (or at least, our role in it). If we can be top in February, the title should be ours. The trick for now is to stay out of trouble; which is precisely what we’ve been doing for the first week. Good work.

Kettering 1 Yellows 2

This is a reckless adventure, surely doomed to failure, but yet so seductive and compelling it’s impossible to not to be drawn into it. There was an ethereal quality about Thursday’s win over Kettering. Everything seemed to go right in the first half, as though the hand of some greater force was protecting us.

We’re Oxford, this doesn’t happen to us, we capitulate under pressure, twice in recent times we’ve been top of the table by a mile at Christmas only to be doomed by May. We don’t come back from a points deduction, financial problems, abject early season form and a run-in of away games to have a successful season. We’re too spineless aren’t we? That’s what Oxford’s all about – jumped up ‘big club’ too arrogant to fight.

We’re demonstrating serious non-Oxford qualities. What is so hideous about all this is that no matter what formulae and calculation you apply to forecast our end position, nothing comes out in our favour. And if that happens, what does that say about our club? Be typically Oxford and fail… fight like a bastard, but still fail. For example, here’s a crude formula.

Assume the 10 teams down to Kettering still have a chance of the play-offs (Rushden in 11th are a further 6 points behind, so it’s a reasonable line to draw). Then assume that every game against one of those 10 ends in a draw and every other game in a win. Granted, it’s not going to give you an accurate points total, but gives some indication of likely end positions.

On this basis, Cambridge will win the title. Burton, Histon, Torquay and Kidderminster make the play-offs. We finish ninth. Five points behind. How much was our points deduction?

Of course, if we buck the formulae and win the games we’re be down to draw – Stevenage and Burton away, Wrexham at home, then we’ll make it. Which isn’t likely… is it?

Yellows 1 Kettering 1

Officially, the first live game I ever saw was against Southampton in 1975 but I was three and don’t remember anything about it.

My grandparents lived in Abingdon and we’d usually take in a game over the Christmas period so the first game I remember was four years later against Hull City.

We lived in Welwyn Garden City at the time and for a contrived reason I was an Ipswich Town fan. It turns out, that seeing Ipswich getting tanked at Highbury in 1978 was the first game I remember seeing.

It wasn’t until 1981, when we eventually moved to the area, that we started going regularly to The Manor. A 1-0 win against Bristol City triggered more regular visits that have lasted pretty much to the present day.

The first live game I ever saw on TV, though I barely remember it, was the 1978 FA Cup Final. I was also allowed to stay up and watch the first half of Scotland’s ill-fated World Cup opener against Peru. For some reason, the first highlights I remember seeing was Arsenal v Middlesborough, probably in 1979.

These are moments imprinted on my brain and have had a profound impact on my whole life. Now football seems to be hidden behind higher and higher walls. England (away) games, once free to watch on TV, then available through a subscription, can only be viewed by subscribing to a ‘digital platform’ and then and the channel itself. It’s almost as if football doesn’t want to be watched at all.

I feel largely detached from the new season. For the first time since I got my first season ticket in 1995; a wedding and holiday has seen me miss three of the first four home games of the season. Distance has not made the heart grow fonder. The 1-1 draw against Kettering seems like complacency to me. Which seems to be a common theme in the first weeks of the season. A good end to last season, a decent pre-season and some solid signings seem to have bred a laissez faire attitude around the club. The resignation of Adam Murray as captain does, at least, seem to be in a step in the right direction. Nothing against Murray, but the general consensus is that skippering doesn’t suit him.