George Lawrence’s Shorts: Rob’s Red Redemption

Saturday 12 September 2020

GLS was quite the sports star at school. The bean bag toss was the blue riband of any Sports Day, and when we say sports day, we mean the Wednesday lunchtime before sports day. Tragedy struck one year having packed his running spikes and singlet, he found his shorts had been swapped with the frilly panties his mum wore for her trombone lesson with Mr Spencer down the road. ‘It helps when I’m blowing’, she said. 

And so it was with the glorious march to the League 1 title on Saturday as the season’s opener against Lincoln ended in a 2-0 defeat. The game saw Rob Atkinson make his debut, so the ref got him a red card to mark the occasion and let him go home early, which was nice of him. 

As with that year’s bean bag toss, maybe the title can wait until next year. 

Sunday 13 September 2020

We should have known better, anyone watching Armand Gnadulliet trying to bring a routine through ball under control at Oxford will know about how MApp is with nasty little traps. This is what he put Lincoln’s win over Oxford down to

Monday 14 September 2020

There are quite a few rare things – hen’s teeth, Steve Anthrobus goals, getting a coronavirus test in the same timezone as your house, but there are few things more rare than a rescinded red card. Rob Atkinson, The Little Tank, has had his overturned. It’s 2020, so go figure.

Tuesday 15 September 2020

Oxford faced a stern test in the Type 2 Diabetes Cup on Tuesday when they faced a Watford side  full of Premier League quality and Jerome Sinclair. Oxford took the lead when grown man Rob Hall mash up dem proper top bins in the first half. A last minute equaliser took the game to penalties, which was like an episode of Mrs Brown’s boys; a tragedy wrapped in a comedy. Hall bang dem goalie wid me brudder Marcus M n mi man Anthony Forde, resulting in a 0-3 defeat.

In other news, spellcheck’s Fiarce Kelleher has signed for Wrexham.

Wednesday 16 September 2020

Doh-eyed cash puppy Stewart Donald brings his Premier League giants Sunderland to the Kassam on Saturday. Oxford have an injury crisis according to the Sunderland Echo missing six key players. Along with Josh Ruffels, John Mousinho, Matty Taylor, Alex Gorrin and Sam Winnall is Jamie Hanson. Hanson’s key attribute being that he’s the one who makes the cheese toasties on away trips.

Thursday 17 September 2020

There was a forty-eight minute long forty-five minute special Five Minute Fans’ Forum on Thursday. In the hot seats was Niall, don’t call me Niall, it’s Niall McWilliams and KRob. McWilliams furtively confirmed, that Chris Allen was still with the club, while his wife jammed some suspect bin bags into the boot of her car. He also confirmed that Creepy Uncle Firoz appears to have built the world’s first Covid secure football stadium. Then KRob answered a question about the salary cap spewing random numbers like Rachel Riley having a bad reaction to her Priti Patel vaccine.

Friday 18 September 2020

KRob is a big Oasis fan; he won’t look back in anger for anyone. Despite an injury to Josh Ruffels and John Mousinho and inexperience with Elliot Moore and The Little Tank Rob Atkinson, he’s still thinks he has a defensive Wonderwall and so isn’t bringing more cover in. Instead looking lovingly at Derby’s champagne supernova Josh Shonibare for a loan move.

The top man’s top man Jakey right right Wright has found himself a new club. The former Oxford captain has signed for Hereford. Jakey’s had a difficult couple of years after a loan move to Bolton from Sheffield United went all wrong wrong wrong last season. Jakey will go right right right into the Hereford starting line-up on Saturday.

Match wrap: Lincoln City 2 Oxford United 0

The office at work re-opened at the beginning of August; it only has 25% of its original capacity and you have to sign a piece of paper where, theoretically at least, you could be disciplined for making someone else a cup of coffee. There’s no requirement for anyone to go in, but it’s available should anyone want to use it. After six months working at home and having changed how we work to fit the new world, while I feel I have a moral responsibility to go in, I can’t find any specific reason why.

The reverse is true when it comes to watching these lockdown games on iFollow. It’s convenient and cheap but the problem is that I can’t find a reason not to watch them. I probably wouldn’t have gone to Lincoln in normal times – I’ve been to Sincil Bank before and I can think of no particular reason to go again. In fact, I quite like the inaccessibility of some fixtures, I like the effort required to attend them, but also the reason not to. 

When I started watching football, there wasn’t even regular match commentary on the radio, I remember the Saturday afternoon Radio Oxford show having a ‘prayer mat’ that they’d metaphorically get out if we needed a goal. There would be periodic updates, a bit like we do now from Witney Town or Berinsfield. The football happened while you did other things.

iFollow demands your attention in the way radio doesn’t, you’re stuck to your sofa, shutting out as many distractions as you can so you can follow the game. But the convenience, price and the lack of an alternative – that is, actually going to a game – makes it compelling, though not in a good way.

One benefit is that you get the commentary from the local BBC radio, which at least gives a virtual away day a sense of some of its mystery. Amidst debates over the word ‘athletical’, goal updates from Gainsborough Trinity and a lengthy discussion about how Lincoln’s play-off failures hadn’t damaged their ability to climb the divisions (until it was pointed out that there had been 18 years between their play-off failures and their next promotion), Radio Lincolnshire were reassuringly bias and ill informed throughout. 

Above all, though, they gave off a sense that Lincoln’s principal role was to contain us because we were such a dangerous opponent. It was similar to how we might treat the visit of Portsmouth, Ipswich or Sunderland. Our new found status, following our play-off defeat, may have delivered us a reputation we need to play up to.

The problem is that we can’t bring the whole package; it is very likely that we’d have sold out the away end at Lincoln, we’d have brought the noise and the occasion. The pent up momentum that has built up, even over the last week, would have flowed through the game, toppling anyone not braced for it. Fans don’t win games, but they can change the dynamic.

Stylistically they weren’t a team we’d recognise as being Michael Appleton’s. Their shape and discipline meant we couldn’t play round them, through them or over them. Added to that was an efficiency in attack that Appleton’s Oxford didn’t really have; when they did get a chance it was decisively executed. Dare I say it, it reminded me less of our 2016 promotion team and more of Wycombe Wanderers.

In a sense this has echoes of the 2014 World Cup, where Spain came to the tournament as World and European champions full of the tika taka only to find the Germans had invented a new, direct way of playing which simply bypassed all the passing. Surely Gareth Ainsworth hasn’t stumbled across a revolutionary way of playing at this level?

If so, League 1 is going to be a massive challenge for us – we have plenty of firepower and creativity, we moved the ball well but as was rightly pointed out, there was little penetration until we were 2-0 down. Teams built on a solid shape with a super efficient, well-drilled, attack against our defence could present some difficulties. 

As much as Rob Atkinson has impressed during pre-season, it is still asking a lot for him to perform 46 games at this level, and John Mousinho surely doesn’t have a lot of games in his legs. It feels like there’s a big gap between Atkinson’s physical ability and Mousinho’s experience and dependability. Let’s not forget that Elliot Moore is still only 23 himself; it feels like we have emerging talent and dependable but fading ability, but nobody in that mid-career sweet spot that we can definitely rely on all season.

Add to this is Simon Eastwood, whose shot stopping appears to have returned to form, but decision making remains decidedly shaky. Though perhaps his occasional surges out of his box are a sign that he lacks a bit of confidence with those in front of him. You don’t get a sense that we have a defence which will ship a ton of goals, but when an attack is efficient and direct, these minor lapses will get punished.

For all the excitement of bringing in Winnall and Taylor, our defence remains a blind spot. Losing Rob Dickie and John Mousinho’s age are no surprises, even before that Curtis Nelson’s departure was always known. In the whole time Karl Robinson has been at the club, he’s yet to sign a centre-back with games under his belt. I think Atkinson and Elliot will come good, but they’ll do it in the glare of real games with lapses along the way. In a promotion hunt, it won’t take too many lapses to turn success into mid-table.

Of course, it’s only the first game and it doesn’t mean much. It puts pressure on the upcoming games to find some form and get points on the table, but it’s far from proof that we’re a poor team. Robinson has had a good transfer window, but if there is money in the budget, then a mid-career central defender wouldn’t be the worst investment. But, then again, perhaps that’s the problem with games on iFollow; you watch them rather than feel them, analyse them rather than enjoy them, consume rather than participate. Maybe I need to find an excuse not to watch them as much.

Midweek fixture: League 1 Kitwatch 2020/2021

There’s nothing better than a new kit; so the summer is new kit Christmas. Nearly everyone have revealed their kit for the new season. I’ll keep updating this post with new designs as they’re revealed. Here’s what we have so far…

Accrington Stanley

Accrington are punching above their weight adopting Adidas as their kit manufacturer. Thankfully they’ve managed to bring the tone down a notch or two with an experimental dotty sleeve. It’s let Accrington down, it’s let Adidas down, but most of all, it’s let the lovely white shirt down.

Blackpool

We’re all shocked to our core with Blackpool’s new shirt; tangerine with white trim, like every Blackpool shirt in history. That said, it’s a nice enough design. Eagled eyed among you will see this template replicated elsewhere. In the least shocking news ever the away shirt is a simple reverse out of the home version.

Bristol Rovers

The key to any artistic process is to know when to stop. Bristol Rovers have an iconic kit and it shouldn’t be difficult to pull a decent shirt out of the bag. This version has funny cuffs, collar, stripe down the arm, what appears to be some kind of camo shadowing. The second kit goes some way to redeeming things, but not much.

Burton Albion

Burton Albion may be the most forgettable team in the division, and their new home shirt lives up to that reputation. One of this season’s trends is the re-introduction of the button collar, which we can all agree is a travesty. And yet, the away kit is so awful, apparently modelled on the faux medical uniform of a cosmetic surgery nurse, that the button may just improve it.

Charlton Athletic

Without doubt Charlton have bigger problems than providing a decent new kit. The home shirt looks like every Charlton kit ever released, while the away shirt is probably a reflection of the mood around the club.

Crewe Alexandra

Crewe’s return to League 1 is marked by a retro red and black number, but it’s the away kit which is of most note, appearing to take inspiration from their shirt sponsor Mornflake Mighty Oats.

Doncaster Rovers

Thankfully Doncaster Rovers’ new shirt is identical to every Doncaster Rovers home shirt of the last decade. The red and white hoops are a classic not to be messed with. The away kit is also pretty sweet; maybe the best combo in the division?

Fleetwood Town

To some people, the fact that Fleetwood Town exist and are managed by Joey Barton is confusing enough. This kit, which seems to adopt about nine different styles in one, is a proper head scrambler. The away kit, however, works really nicely – silver and mint, who knew?

Gillingham

Bit of an odd one this; Gillingham are perhaps the most meh team in League 1, and it appears that they’re sticking with the same kit as last season. It’s OK, Macron, the manufacturer, have a nice style about them. You could describe this as a bit meh, really.

Hull City

Like all the teams coming down from the Championship, Hull have been slow to release their new shirt. The result is an unremarkable number, saved largely by the fact that it’s Umbro, giving it a nice traditional feel. The third kit (no second kit that I can ascertain) is a bit of an oddity; when I first saw it, I really liked it and thought it was one of the nicest in the division, then I looked again and find it a bit boring.

Ipswich Town

A tale of two shirts for Ipswich Town. An absolute beauty for the home shirt reminiscent of their heyday in the 1980s under Bobby Robson. The away shirt looks like someone has washed it with a tissue in the pocket.

Lincoln City

Lincoln City play a classic card with their new shirt. There are few teams that wear red and white stripes who haven’t gone for the disruptive inverted colourway at some point. There will be Lincoln fans everywhere tearing up their season tickets at the abomination, but I like it. The away number is solid but unremarkable.

MK Dons

A solid home option for MK Dons, but you can’t deny they work hard to be the most despicable team in the league, the away shirt is black with gold trim? What are they? A Bond villain? Yes, yes they are.

Northampton Town

I’ve always felt that Hummel offer a hipster’s choice when it comes to shirt manufacturing; typically because of their excellent work on the Danish national shirts in the mid-80s. I’ve also always liked Northampton’s colours. So, put together should be a sure fire winner. the away kit is OK until you look more closely, the strange central dribble, the fading pin stripes. They get away with it, but only just.

Oxford United

Look closely, well not that closely, and you’ll see the new Oxford shirt is the same Puma template as Blackpool and Swindon. Rumour has it that in real life it adopts the geometric pattern of the Peterborough shirt. It’s OK, for a title winning shirt.

Peterborough United

Last season Puma made a big deal of their sublimated flux shirt designs, this year seems to have some kind of geometric update. There are randomised white flecks in there as well. A real nearly, but not quite design, a bit like Peterborough. The away shirt utilises the 437th Puma template of the division, and it’s a bit of a cracker, while nothing screams ‘Revenge season’ then a neon pink third kit.

Plymouth Argyle

Plymouth return to League 1 with a couple of scorchers. The home shirt is spoilt a bit with what appears to be a button collar, the away kit is absolutely magnificent. It’s difficult to imagine under what circumstances they would need a third kit, but it ticks some boxes.

Portsmouth

One of the big favourites for the League 1 title next season have opted for a pretty conservative upgrade. What the heck is with that collar though? I quite like the away shirt with its white shadow stripes, it reminds me of our own away kit from the mid-eighties. Was there a three for two offer at Sports Direct? The unnecessary third kit looks like a reboot of our 2013/14 Animalates shirt.

Rochdale

You might call it armageddon chic; there’s a theme in a lot of kits where they’ve taken their standard design and given it a twist. Quite often it’s such a twist it comes off completely. Rochdale are just about the right side of acceptable with the blurred lined and shredded but at the top.

Shrewsbury Town

Aficionados of League 1 kit launches will know that Shrewsbury specialise in producing terrible promotional photography. For evidence try this, this or even this.This year is no different. Still, they get bonus points for adopting Admiral as their kit manufacturer. The away shirt takes inspiration from Oxford’s purple years when we were sponsored by Isinglass.

Swindon Town

Our friends up the A420 have selected yet another Puma kit variation. How many templates does one manufacturer need? It’s a nice and simple design, ruined by the addition of a Swindon Town badge. The away shirt could not be less imaginative if it tried.

Sunderland

Let’s not kid ourselves; all teams use standard templates, but Sunderland’s new Nike shirt absolutely screams ‘park football’. The away shirt is Portsmouth’s home shirt in a different colour way, but that’s OK, I quite like it.

Wigan Athletic

I was genuinely sad when I saw this; Wigan’s kit feels like a club that’s fallen apart with the off-the-peg template and the ironed-on ‘sponsor’ (let’s assume the Supporters Club have not paid a penny for this).

AFC Wimbledon

Have Wimbledon given up? They seem so bored with life they can’t be bothered to feature a decent logo of their sponsor and what can you say about the diagonal shadow stripe? They seem to trump it with the away shirt, which is going some. A shirt that screams relegation.

George Lawrences Shorts: MApp reading

Saturday 21 December 2019

Divorced dad at a PTA Disco Gareth Ainsworth hasn’t been this disappointed since he failed to seduce Cabbage Karen, the school’s dinner lady, last Christmas. He brought his table topping Wycombe team to the Kassam and like that fateful night, left with his tail between his legs after a 1-0 defeat. The goal came from James Henry, but the game pivoted when The Mr T of the Chilterns, Ade Akinfenwa, was sent off for throwing John Mousinho over the North Stand.

Sunday 22 December 2019

It’s Christmas, which means family, friends and avoiding creepy Uncle Alan and his wandering hands. So if you want to pretend to be engrossed in something, The Roker Report remembers Sunderland’s 1975 win over Oxford. I mean, don’t we all?

Monday 23 December 2019

MApp has been reflecting on his time with Oxford. The three years of promotions, giant killings and derby wins has really brought a smile to his face. For MApp this requires a complex mechanical contraption attached to a winch.

Tuesday 24 December 2019

When we say MApp’s back, we mean it; it may be Christmas, but for the new Lincoln manager it’s business as usual as he prepares to face his old club on Boxing Day. Obviously it’s still a special time; following a turkey protein shake on the big day he’ll be dusting off the novelty festive dumbbells readying himself for the game. 

Wednesday 25 December 2019

Do they know it’s Christmas time at all? KRob gave the squad the day off on Christmas Day knowing that there was a box of Celebrations and a DVD of Skyfall with his name on at home. Depressed sixth former Rob Dickie got a chemistry set, but told the lads he got a Sam Fox calendar, Jose’s son John Mousinho got socks and the Top Gear Annual, Jamie Mackie broke his record for stuffing sausage meat stuffing balls up his nose. 

Thursday 26 December 2019

I don’t know if we mentioned it; Mr Big Guns was back in town on Thursday as MApp brought his Lincoln team to the Kassam. Ecclesiastical genius Shandon The Baptiste scored the only goal in a 1-0 win. KRob felt the pressure throughout the game; holding your gut in with MApp rippling three feet away really takes it out of you.

Friday 27 December 2019

No football tomorrow, but the team is preparing to meet The Crazy Gang of Wimbledon on Sunday. With the busy Christmas period, KRob is planning to rest a few players. Jamie Mackie will return to face elbowing duties up front while a number of the midfield are expected to be rested by standing in the middle of the pitch watching the ball sail over their heads for ninety minutes.

Match wrap: Oxford United 1 Lincoln City 0

Growing up, we had an unwritten family rule on Christmas Day; you didn’t leave the house. Leaving the house would be a waste. It would be dedicated to wholesome family pursuits of present opening (about 12 minutes) and TV (about 12 hours). Boxing Day was all about blowing away the thin film of dust that caked us as we sat around in our centrally heated house eating chocolate, staring at our presents and generally stagnating.

If we could, we’d go to the football. Before we moved to the area, we’d visit my grandparents in Abingdon and my dad would take me to The Manor. That novelty alone made it special. Afterwards, I’d thaw out with whatever Subbuteo accessories I’d been given, reenacting the day’s game as best I could with teams in Celtic and Motherwell colours, using my programme as a reference.

When I got older, I started to play football in the morning so Oxford games in the afternoon were associated with aching legs. I remember going to Molineux in 1996 with my dad to watch us lose to Wolves; a proper dads and sons day out. Going to football with dad pretty much ended five years later in 2001 when he moaned his way through our 2-1 defeat to Luton at the Kassam.

Most recently, Boxing Day games have been with friends, in 2003 I tore ankle ligaments playing in the morning, but decided to run it off. About ten of us managed to see Julian Allsop’s last minute winner against Leyton Orient which kept us top of the table. Sitting for two hours with the pain in my foot growing, I hobbled out of the stadium, but couldn’t make it back to the car. I couldn’t walk on it for over a week and still feel the pain now.

In 2015, I showed off our promotion winning team with pride as we swept past Exeter, the friend I was with asking eagerly who each player was, in awe at what he was watching.

But Boxing Day games have lost their attraction in the last few years. I enjoy the big crowd and its weird mix; whole families with excitable, but perplexed girlfriends and distant relatives bolted on. People sharing their left over Quality Street around during a lull in play. On Saturday I saw a bloke order a coffee go to the end of the counter to pick it up as though he was in Starbucks. There was a couple innocently drinking beer in the stand, something that’s been illegal for 35 years. But, knowing that results haven’t gone for us in recent years, the anticipation left me flat.

We’ve had three big crowds in the last week, so that novelty was gone, and a bit like Christmas Day, I now realise in my mind Boxing Day football is basically an amalgam of all the best previous Boxing Day experiences. No one game will ever surpass it.

Shandon Baptiste’s howitzer aside, the game felt flat. At times it played like an extended set of training drills with both sides playing good quality possession football. We know Michael Appleton is a great coach, but he can be too much of a purist. Karl Robinson has added that edge to our game, which is what allows us to compete against teams like Wycombe. Baptiste’s strike, Mousinho’s cynical, but necessary, foul and a Jamie Mackie cameo were the only signs of it. Otherwise we looked a bit tired.

There was a large group of non-regulars behind me during the game, groaning and shouting to ‘get it in there’ whenever we got close to the final third of the pitch. It was unusual to hear that kind of frustration as more frequent visitors are getting used to the idea of being patient in possession looking for the angles and the moments that make all the difference.

I guess if you haven’t seen us play often, accepting that the goalkeeper will roll the ball out to centre backs stood barely outside the six yard box is part of the challenge. Only with time can you be assured that this is all part of the plan.

I would miss Boxing Day football if it didn’t exist, I like the novelty and it’s place in the Christmas holiday period. I like the new faces. But, where us regulars are having to learn what good football at this level looks like, the day-trippers’ impatience for entertainment can be disruptive. It’s good to bag the three points and move on; to get back to something a little more normal. The three big crowds have been great, but we’re now at a point where performing in a one-off occasion isn’t our goal, our goals are more long term.

George Lawrence’s Shorts: Hammered Time

Saturday 21 September 2019

When challenged in the box he floats like a butterfly, but in front of goal he stings like a bee; Tariqe Fosu crushed a hat-trick against Lincoln City on Saturday in a record breaking 6-0 away win. This beat our previous best which was probably a scrappy defensive 1-0 smash and grab. Lincoln’s humiliation was compounded by the fact that they were being watched their next manager, MApp, thereby giving them the greatest fear known to man.

Sunday 22 September 2019

As Danny Rose and Canice Carrol will tell you, playing football in a dangerous and unpredictable town is no fun at all. Thankfully, Kashif Siddiqi is not heading for Swindon, but the relative tranquility of war-ravaged Kashmir. Oxford’s 20-goals-a-season peace envoy has been loaned out to their local team where he’ll be blocking shots, and ducking grenades. 

Monday 23 September 2019

Chris Cadden has been talking to his wee pals at the Scottish Record about his secret sadness; an inability to iron his clothes. No doubt interviewed while wrapped in toilet paper, the full-back has revealed that he’s moved into a ‘village called Bicester’, no Chris, that’s Bicester Village and you can’t live in a Helly Hansen factory store. ‘I put my first washing on yesterday’ said Cadden from trapped inside his tumble drier.

Tuesday 24 September 2019

The man KRob has labelled the future of English football, Shandon Baptiste, has been called up to play for Grenada against St Kitts and Nevis. Baptiste is due to fly out for two games at the beginning of November, but if KRob keeps going on about him; he’ll probably be able to walk on water to get there.

Wednesday 25 September 2019

It was Hammered Time on Wednesday as Oxford marmalised W’Stam in the League Cup. A 4-0 annihilation provided the biggest shock in East London since Dirty Den left Ange. Oxford’s Greta Thurnberg, Shandon Baptiste completed the rout after goals from Elliot Moore, Matty Taylor and Tariqe Fosu. W’Stam won’t be playing the old Joanna down the rubber-dub after that performance because they were bucking derrible.

Thursday 26 September 2019 

Thursday means it’s the Six Minute Eighteen Seconds Fans Forum in which every member of the backroom staff scrambled to put themselves forward after last night’s mullering. In the end Tiger was the man in the hot seat, but spent the entire time leaning out of the Radio Oxford windows flicking the V’s at passers by, noisily telling them to stick their effing bubbles up their arse, sideways.

Friday 27 September 2019

Gillingham tomorrow who are managed by criminal Stay Puff Marshmallow Glaswegian Steve Evans. Evans has been playing ‘oooh, cleeevvveerrr’ mind games with Karl Robinson claiming that last Saturday’s Lincoln result was down to two lucky goals. I dunno Wobbles McBloaty, I reckon it was the other four we smashed in that made the real difference.