Stafford Rangers 0 Us 1

Darren Patterson was considered to be under pressure prior to Saturday’s win over Stafford. Not that he seemed that concerned; happy, as he was, to transfer list (albeit rightly) Yemi, a clear fan favourite.

Despite nailing Saturday’s result, he was still subject to debates like
this one
. It centres around the idea that both Patterson and Jim Smith have taken charge of the same number of games this season which is the perfect opportunity to assess our progress.

The headline statistics have Patterson fractionally behind. But its too simplistic a view – it doesn’t consider the teams that were inherited, their relative form, who they played, the time in the season and so on. To judge a manager over a short period of time is crazy, there are too many factors to consider.

Changing manager is the easiest, most decisive thing a chairman can do. It protects his neck. But it introduces much greater risk. You’re replacing a known with an unknown; as tempting as it might be to do this, constant panic and change is not going to help us meet our objectives.

It will take 2 years to really judge Patterson as a manager. At this point, contracts he has inherited will have run out, replacements bought and bedded in. Precious few managers are given such a chance, of course, but at some point we’re going to have to bite our lip and allow a transformation to happen. Otherwise it will be purgatory for the rest of eternity.

End of our regularly scheduled programme

There was a celebratory mood around the ground for yesterday’s win. It showed the benefit of playing without pressure. Stafford didn’t have an ounce of quality, but we’ve undone by that before.

The Oxford branch of the hamstring protection society was on the bench – Gavin Johnson, Anaclet and Odubade – meaning that the pace of the latter two took some of the dynamism out of our approach play. Still, we started well, again, and were robust rather than fluid; but against some of Staffordshire finest lumps of meat it was just what we needed.

The decision to give the big Zebroski game-time looks to be paying dividends. A couple of months ago a speculative drive through a crowded box would have flown unchecked for a throw-in. Zebroski appears to have achieved the sharpness and touch of a proper striker.

Smith suggests that there are places up for grabs; with Zebroski looking sharp and fit, the yips associated with dropping Duffy have been abated. The remaining question marks are whether you play with three at the back – in which case Luke Foster – who was superb yesterday – is likely to play alongside Gilchrist and Quinn. In midfield the decision is between Rose and Pettefer. If playing with a four at the back, then there’s an additional opportunity on the left, which would suggest an opening for Burgess or Rose.

Quinn and Gilchrist benefit from younger legs; so a five is preferable to a four, with Pettefer rather than Rose taking up the middle of the middle to add bite. Burgess and Rose are always available to come off the bench; as are Duffy and Marvin Robinson as alternative striking options. Day might make the bench in place of one of the strikers, but with five at the back, an injury does allow you to switch to a four which may mean Day isn’t needed. Then again, he does offer other ‘special play’ options – long throw-ins and shooting.

With the best defence in the division by a country mile and despite the hand-wringing; third highest goalscoring record we should be able to play if not without pressure, without fear, for the next few weeks.