Wednesday, 22 May 2013
The votes are in and have been counted so now it's time to wave goodbye to the 2012-13 season by reliving all the best and worst of the last 12 months. The season may not be one that we look back on with any particular fondness, but there are nonetheless moments which stand out, whether for good or for bad, and we celebrate them all in the TBFUTH Awards 2013!
Winner: Jake Wright
Percentage of Vote: 91%
For many of Oxford United's players, this season has been a disappointing one. Influential stars have been absent through injury for large parts of the season, while others have frustratingly struggled for form. But one player has stood head and shoulders above the rest to claim this year's TBFUTH Player of the Season Award with a staggering 91% of the vote. I'm referring, of course, to captain Jake Wright, whose title was never in any doubt after a fantastic season. Wright has led by example this season, his passion and pride evident in both good times and bad and with so many important players missing (both literally and figuratively) his contribution to the cause was all the more noticeable.
Winner: Andy Whing v Rochdale (20/04/13)
Percentage of Vote: 44%
There are not many people who would have believed this time last year that we would be awarding the 2013 TBFUTH Goal of the Season Award to Andy Whing – but that's exactly what's happened! Whing is often praised for his bulldog spirit and his ferocious playing style, but spectacular overhead kicks are not typically part of his repertoire, so it was particularly surprising to see him pull off such a feat to open the scoring against Rochdale. There have been other excellent goals scored this season (Tom Craddock's effort away at Wycombe was a close contender) but the sheer novelty of seeing such a piece of skill pulled off by the usually agricultural Andy Whing elevates this one above the rest.
Winner: Sean Rigg
Percentage of Vote: 86%
Admittedly, transfer activity over the last past 12 months has been rather limited, but there are few who could deny that Sean Rigg has proven himself to be a valuable asset this season and worthy winner of the TBFUTH Most Inspired Signing Award. After signing from Port Vale during the summer, Rigg has impressed tremendously on the right wing this season, his pace and ball control terrorizing opposition defences – and he's contributed a few goals as well. And with Chris Wilder favouring a 4-4-2 formation for the latter half of the season (a change from his previous 4-3-3 favourite) Rigg became an even more important player for United due to the increased need for an out-and-out winger. More than anyone Rigg will have been disappointed with the way this season has gone for Oxford, especially as he watches his former Vale team-mates celebrate promotion to League One. But if that fires him up even more next season, we could have plenty more reasons to be singing Rigg's praises next season.
Winner: Justin Richards
Percentage of Vote: 62%
When it was first announced that Justin Richards was signing on loan from Burton at the start of January, I'll admit that I had my doubts. But in the handful of appearances he made in January he looked to be a good signing, putting himself about and holding the ball up well. His loan deal was made permanent on transfer deadline day but just when it was looking as if Richards might have a more long-term future at the club the inevitable happened: just a couple of weeks after signing permanently for the club he was ruled out for the rest of the season thanks to a torn cruciate ligament. He played a grand total of two matches following his permanent signing. As a result, the club was left paying wages for the rest of the season to yet another player who would be unable to play and so as a result – through no particular fault of his own – Justin Richards has the dubious honour of 'winning' the TBFUTH Worst Signing Award.
Winner: Johnny Mullins
Percentage of Vote: 75%
Rotherham fans were left perplexed by Steve Evans' decision to loan us Johnny Mullins – and it soon became easy to see why. Mullins was little short of a revelation during his all-too-brief spell at the Kassam, earning him the TBFUTH Best Loanee Award. As imperious as Jake Wright has been this season, the other place in central defence has proven to be a more difficult role to fill, with Michael Duberry absent for most of the season and Michael Raynes struggling to find his feet following his arrival last summer. But Mullins was able to slot in alongside Wright almost instantly, shoring up a porous defence and notching a couple of goals himself during his time at the club. Unfortunately, after just eight games Mullins was recalled to Rotherham, making 30 more appearances for the Millers to help them to promotion.
Winner: Daniel Boateng
Percentage of Vote: 44%
20-year-old Daniel Boateng arrived at the club in the summer on a six-month loan from Arsenal. However, his impact at the club was minimal, being restricted to just two league appearances and a few cup cameos in which he played almost no part. By October he had played his last game for Oxford, Chris Wilder choosing to look elsewhere for his defensive options and in January Boateng was quietly ushered back to Arsenal. Boateng was not a spectacular failure, but as with his fellow loanee Sean McGinty (who ran Boateng very close in the vote) he impressed no-one and quickly – mercifully – vanished from the memory. Unfortunately for him, not quite enough to avoid the ignominy of 'winning' the 2013 TBFUTH Worst Loanee Award.
Winner: Bradford Away
Percentage of Vote: 44%
On Tuesday 8th January Bradford City shocked Premier League Aston Villa with a comprehensive 3-1 victory in the home leg of their League Cup semi-final. But just a matter of days later they were humbled on their home turf thanks to an excellent Oxford display. The hosts were understandably confident in the opening stages and took an early lead, but United fought back valiantly and levelled the scores with a thunderous effort from Sean Rigg. Oxford continued to attack their tiring opponents and finally got their just desserts in the final minute of the game as Peter Leven slotted home a penalty to bring the points back home and cap an impressive eight-game unbeaten run in the league – but most importantly, of course, winning the TBFUTH Best Team Performance Award!
Winner: Rotherham Home
Percentage of Vote: 52%
This was possibly the most abject Oxford performance in recent memory and fully deserves its TBFUTH Worst Team Performance Award. We came into the game on the back of a four game unbeaten run which included back-to-back victories over Gillingham and Port Vale and expectations were understandably high that we could complete a treble over the league's top three. Instead the fans were treated to our heaviest ever defeat at the Kassam Stadium thanks to 15 first-half minutes of madness, to go in 4-0 down at the break in front of a stunned home crowd. After such an appalling first-half display there was little to cheer for the loyal fans who remained and even with the match effectively over as a contest a shell-shocked Oxford seemed more determined not to concede any further goals in the second half than to restore any pride by scoring themselves, allowing Rotherham to coast to the easiest away victory they are ever likely to earn.
Winner: Alfie Potter's goal v Swindon
Percentage of Vote: 65%
Last season's rare double over Swindon was a sweet experience for Oxford, but bragging rights were placed firmly in the balance once again when the two clubs were drawn together in the first round of the JPT. In their customary fashion League One Swindon – beaten finalists the previous season – believed they already had the tie in the bag. But they were left humiliated as they once again failed to break down a stout United defence, capping it all with a sublime piece of comedy defending as Darren Ward and Aden Flint collided to allow Alfie Potter in to deal the fatal blow in the dying minutes of the game, sparking pandemonium in the East Stand as supporters who usually couldn't give a stuff about the Trophy went delirious with joy. There haven't been too many moments to savour in the last 12 months, but this was definitely one and the obvious choice for the TBFUTH Best Moment Award.
Winner: Rotherham's fourth first-half goal
Percentage of Vote: 45%
We've already discussed this miserable night, but this was one moment which stood out above the rest to win the TBFUTH Worst Moment Award. Heavy defeats have been fortunately relatively uncommon in recent years and home thrashings have been even less frequent. But to find ourselves 4-0 down at half-time is a situation which Oxford fans have not had to endure since for decades. What's worse is that barely 15 minutes before Ben Pringle netted Rotherham's fourth the sides had been level and Oxford had been more than holding their own. It was a remarkable and rather pitiful collapse and the fourth goal was as weak a piece of defending as we're likely to see in our lifetimes with several defenders being effortlessly pulled out of position to deal with a lone threat, allowing Pringle the freedom of the six-yard box to slot home.
Winner: Calvin Zola (Burton)
Percentage of Vote: 62%
There have been a few contenders for the TBFUTH Best Opposition Goal Award, so it was always going to be a special effort which won it. On a day when we were thoroughly outclassed by a rampant Burton side, everything just seemed to fall into place for the hosts. Take, for example, Calvin Zola's opener. Receiving the ball 25 yards out and with his back to goal, he controlled it with his chest before volleying spectacularly on the turn. Most weeks such an audacious effort would likely have skewed off at an angle or sailed hopelessly high and wide. Not this one, though. It arrowed into the back of the net, leaving Ryan Clarke little more than a spectator. A rare effort indeed.
Sunday, 5 May 2013
The South West Combination title is in Oxford's grasp after they beat leaders Keynsham Town at Roman Way to close the gap at the top of the table to just two points, and with United having a game in hand. The ladies knew they had to win this match if they were to keep their title hopes alive as the season nears its end and with a five-point gap separating them from Keynsham – the only side to have beaten the yellows in the league this season – they knew this was the match on which the championship would turn.
It was a tense and nervy game littered with mistakes, but it was the yellows who held their nerve best, dominating most of the second half before seeing out a nervy final few minutes as the visitors desperately sought a late equaliser.
Neither side demonstrated much composure during the nervy opening exchanges but it was United who took the lead after 16 minutes when top-scorer Lauren Allison headed on a floated cross from Catherine Beaver, which squirmed through the goalkeeper's hands to make it advantage Oxford early on in the game.
Keynsham looked for a quick response and began to impose themselves on the game, but the Oxford defence were in miserly mood and their chances were limited. Instead, United almost doubled their lead when Tash Caswell latched onto a goal kick which had travelled the full length of the field and was unlucky to see her attempt come back off the bar.
But eventually Keynsham's pressure told and they got the goal they had been threatening before the half was out. A good passing move ended in a dangerous ball across the face of goal which was hammered into the back of the net from point-blank range to level the scores. Advantage Keynsham once again.
If the visitors had arguably shaded the first half, the second belonged to the hosts as Keynsham faced a yellow onslaught for much of the half. Keynsham knew a draw would suit them better than Oxford and, after overcoming a scare early in the half when another Allison header came back off the bar, sought to wind down the clock as much as possible.
|Picture from OULFC flickr|
There were still ten minutes remaining (plus an exorbitant amount of stoppage time) and it was backs to the walls for United as Keynsham threw everyone forward in a desperate last-ditch search for an equalising goal. And despite a few nervy moments in the Oxford goalmouth, the U's defence stood strong in the face of considerable pressure from a Keynsham side that had scored 79 goals in their 16 league matches this season.
On the final whistle, the Oxford players celebrated as if they had won the league. And should they go on to claim the title in their final matches this season, they may just look back on this match as they day they did it.
Friday, 3 May 2013
It’s that time again. The season is over, half the team has been released (!) and soon we will be looking forward to another season with renewed – and probably misplaced – optimism. But before that raft of new signings come in and we begin to dream of promotion again, let's first look back at the past year and review what has been another topsy-turvy with the 2013 edition of the TBFUTH Awards. The Polls will stay open until Sunday May 19th so get voting!
THE POLLS ARE NOW CLOSED. YOU CAN VIEW THE RESULTS HERE.
THE POLLS ARE NOW CLOSED. YOU CAN VIEW THE RESULTS HERE.
Thursday, 2 May 2013
Posted by Matt Bruce on 16:52. COMMENT,DAMIAN BATT,DEANE SMALLEY,FANS,GUEST WRITERS,JON-PAUL PITTMAN,LIAM DAVIS,MANAGEMENT,MICHAEL DUBERRY,PETER LEVEN,PLAYERS,SIMON HESLOP,TOM CRADDOCK - 1 comment
It's always one of the most interesting parts of the close-season: the announcement of the retained list. Some years there are relatively few changes, with big players secured on longer contracts and little work to be done; other years we see wholesale change as the club seeks to rebuild. This year is one of the latter. And with the announcement that twelve players are to leave the club this summer, including big names such as Peter Leven and Michael Duberry, this move was always going to spark vigorous debate among United fans. Here are a selection of differing opinions on this year's retained list:
I am always one for going with first gut reactions and in the case of Oxford’s retained and released list the first reaction was one of mild shock and surprise. However, having mulled over the names released and retained it actually makes a great deal of sense, with a couple of names that I perhaps disagree with. The list is however the biggest indication yet, in my opinion, that Lenegan and Wilder are desperate to change the state of play at Oxford United FC.
The retained list is promising; including the likes of Crocombe and Marsh shows Oxford’s desire to bring youth through the ranks and this will sit well with many fans I’m sure. Young players who have learnt the trade with Oxford, live in Oxford and have the club at heart can only be a good thing. Giving Alfie Potter and Andrew Whing new contracts was almost a given, certainly with the former. The only concern is with Whing and the potential injury threat he carries. The one shock is the much maligned Deane Smalley. I’ve never been a massive fan of his, and the times I have seen him play this season have not filled me with confidence. The performance against Dagenham and Redbridge earlier this month showed me he should probably have been on the other list.
Those who have been told their futures lie away from Yellow and Blue, I wish to say thank you and all the best to every single one of them. The names that stand out most of all, for me, are Batt and Davis. They were a solid pair and with Wright and Duberry they made one of the strongest back fours in the league. Oxford’s problem was getting all four on the pitch at once!
The club was right to not renew contracts with Leven and Duberry. Both were fantastic for Oxford and were firm favourites with the fans and were promising signings for Oxford in what was our second season in the league, but injury stopped any progress they made with the club, and with the new breed of youth coming into the squad it was perhaps inevitable they would not get new contracts. Leven will find a new club, either in League Two or One. Duberry may call it time on his fantastic career, but I wouldn’t be surprised for “Dubes” to feature in the Oxford set up in a coaching role in the future.
The other names on the list are also not that surprising. Pittman and Richards are just too injury prone, Worley was not rated by Wilder for whatever reason; this was obvious in his picking of Raynes over him even when the latter was woefully out of form. Parker and McCormick were promising but were only ever signed as a stop gap to the end of the season, with the latter’s signing incredibly controversial. And as for Craddock, his name appearing on the released list was perhaps the worst kept secret of the second half of the season.
We knew this was coming. An impending doom or relief for a number of Oxford United players and supporters, as they await confirmation on their future. We’ve had the furore over Chris Wilder, with the ‘Grenoble Road’ civil war of “Wilderites” and “Wilder Outers” finally taking a backseat. Now we can divert our attention elsewhere momentarily as we decipher, analyse then praise/criticise the look of next year's playing squad.
A dozen players were released, sparking quite the debate in the ‘twitter-verse’ amongst United fans. Stemming from who we should’ve kept, who should’ve left, and how good so and so was anyway. You start to really understand why the summer of transfers and negotiations is often referred to as ‘silly season’.
The Goalkeepers for next year looks to be an immediate strong suit, with the first alliterative goalkeeping battle since Turley/Tardif of the mid 00’s. With youngster Max Crocombe finishing the season in splendid form, easing the fears of any fans who had reservations over his potential to be a future number 1. I envisage Ryan Clarke will resume duties in goal however after recovering from injury; after all he is “England’s Number One”. With two solid goalkeepers, the release of Luke McCormick seemed inevitable. McCormick provided good cover, and will no doubt be well received if he ever returns to the Kassam.
Full backs are where the first controversy arises. Damian Batt, a stalwart in the United back four for a number of years now, has been released. For all the faults aimed at Batt, whether it is his inability at crossing or his tendency for erroneous positioning, this disappointed me. Batt, voted the best right back in the division in our first season back in the league, has always offered an outlet bombarding down the right flank. He’s been a solid player for a number of years, he has held his place from challenges from the likes of Ben Purkiss, and from his goodbye tweet today, seemed to thoroughly enjoy his stay here. If forced to select an Oxford United XI in my time watching the team, I think Batt ousts Scott McNiven as the starting right back. I, as well as I would imagine most other fans, wish him nothing but the best in his future.
On the opposite side, we saw Liam Davis and Tony Capaldi both released, but a contract offer extended to Luke O’Brien. I have no qualms about any of this. Davis hasn’t lived up to his first few months of his spell at the club, and this season has been below-par on numerous occasions. Capaldi enjoyed some of his best displays in yellow in the heart of midfield, whether that’s testament to his versatility, or an indictment of his inadequate performances in his natural position, I’ll leave up for debate. O’Brien has deputised admirably when called upon, whether or not he’ll be the first choice next year is questionable. I’d anticipate a couple of new full backs come August.
In the middle we saw the departure of Harry Worley and Michael Duberry. The former has been obvious for months. Once ‘young player of the year’, Worley has been resorted to being an emergency striker, turned fourth-choice centre back. His exit is understandable. Duberry, again a release with a sense of inevitability about it, led to a more nostalgic feel. Despite his advancing age, and the scepticism his signing came with, Duberry immediately became a firm favourite. His performance and subsequent post-match celebration at Swindon last season placing him in the history books of the club.
With Jake Wright contracted, although undoubtedly peaking the interest of clubs in higher divisions, and the much-maligned Michael Raynes the only remaining centre backs from this past season, I would expect another arrival, and maybe a bigger role for youth-teamer Sam Long. If we’re to believe that the squad is to be “25% Youth teamers” next season, this seems a logical scenario.
Onto the midfield, the season’s scapegoat Simon Heslop has been let go. Despite often being played out of position and sporadically, Heslop has had a thoroughly underwhelming season, looking a shadow of the player we signed in 2010. This, alongside the release of Peter Leven, the oft-injured but ever-influential Scotsman pave the way for another addition to go along with Scott Davies and Andy Whing, who have been offered new deals.
Josh Parker, who impressed at the turn of the year, but then found himself on the fringes of the squad has moved on. This comes as no surprise to many, and again seems a pretty obvious decision to make. With the release of injury-prone Jon-Paul Pittman as well, much to the chagrin of a few, leaves Alfie Potter (who had his option activated) and Sean Rigg as our two wingers for next season. I would think that there’s potentially another acquisition for next season, probably to cover Rigg and Potter, who were two of the standout performers over the season.
In the striking department, the release of Tom Craddock was met with relief by many. Craddock, often seen as “lazy” certainly mixes opinion with supporters. I personally believe we haven’t utilised him to the best of his ability. In his first season, playing on the left in the infamous 4-3-3 (or 4-5-1 depending on your philosophical bend) he scored 15 goals and instantly made his signing from Luton look like shrewd business.
I believe Craddock is an intelligent footballer, maybe sometimes a bit too intelligent, putting him on a different wavelength to others. His effort (or lack thereof) isn’t helped when compared to James Constable, who chases and harries every loose ball like a puppy in the park. If Craddock was scoring goals in the league above next season, I wouldn’t be overly surprised. Justin Richards was also unsurprisingly released.
Next season, the striking options looks to be James Constable, Tyrone Marsh, who was offered a new deal and Deane Smalley, who to the surprise of many, if not all supporters, was offered a new deal. Not necessarily saying I disagree, I thought I’d be vehemently against this. However I cast my mind back to early on this season, prior to an injury, when arguably Smalley was our best striker turning some high calibre performances. If fit, this could be a wise decision on the part of the manager.
As for who we will sign to replace those released, I’m seeing names appear that seem wholly unrealistic. Jacques Magohma and Calvin Zola will not be signing here. Burton potentially will be promoted, and Magohma is attracting interest from higher divisions. Could we see Jake Wright going to Bradford or Plymouth? I would expect to see some , shall we say, “budgeted” moves. With high earners like Leven, Duberry and Craddock off the books, there’s a genuine opportunity to bolster the squad and make it deeper than seasons past.
Robbie Hall proved the idea behind the loan market. I wouldn’t be averse to seeing more youngsters from Premier League development squads plying their trade here. Younger players are often hungrier for success (a theory Dubes makes hard to justify), and are more than likely highly skilled players.
Next season will see a lot of different faces, hopefully a revitalised attitude in the stands, and dare I say a promotion push.
With a dozen players released from the club (a dozen? that's nearly a squad full), and with a handful being kept, or offered new deals, have the club made the right decisions?
In terms of the retained players, I believe the club were right to keep Whing and Potter, and I also think Davies did enough to earn himself a new deal too. But what about Smalley? Last year he had poor form, this year he was injured for most of it, maybe the 3rd year is the charm?
As for the players who were released, a lot of good players like Leven, Duberry and Jon Paul Pittman were let go, but they have barely been fit this season, and it's hard to have a consistent season when you don't have a consistent starting line up. Hopefully any new signings won't have the same injury troubles. I was personally shocked at the departures of Batt and Davis, Davis especially.
As for the others, they just aren't part of the future plans. We may see players like Worley and Craddock thrive at other clubs, but it's just not happening here for one reason or another. And with 3 youth players given pro contracts, it's possible we may see more chances given to youth players in the coming seasons.
Thanks a lot to those three for sharing their opinions on this year's retained list. Here's what a few more of you had to say on Twitter:
Thanks a lot to those three for sharing their opinions on this year's retained list. Here's what a few more of you had to say on Twitter:
@tbfuth Not sure why we'e kept Smalley, and Scott Davies. Both ones that should've gone. Should've kept McCormick and Leven as a gamble.
— Lewis Hallam (@LewisHallam37) May 2, 2013
@ollyhowells @tbfuth You could say that about ANYONE.....'if'. There is no logic in persisting with the same shit
— Tom (@Tom95M) May 2, 2013
@yelbarhdadi @tom95m @tbfuth he probably wasn't good enough this year, but he finished it well and I reckon he'll be a useful player next yr
— Olly Howells (@ollyhowells) May 2, 2013
Buzzing that @hovis1988 is staying at Oxford. Quality little player. #oufc
— Cameron. (@Cameronyeahhh) May 2, 2013
Really? J.P.Pittman and Davis been released. Wilder I hope you have some bloody good players in mind then to replace them #oufc
— Nathan Wallington (@NatWally2711) May 2, 2013
I have stood by our manager for a long time but after reading the released list today, I am very undecided about his abilities now #oufc
— Mitch East (@Mitcheast1) May 2, 2013
Mohsni, Jombati, Schumacher, Howe and a young combative midfielder. That's what's needed #oufc
— Jack Knight (@JDK_) May 2, 2013
Injury prone, high earners gone. Good decisions made so far. Now lets see what we can bring in! #oufc #wilderin
— Ben Symonds (@Benson_3) May 2, 2013
Pretty much 100% agree with the retained list, some big wage savings in there, lets just hope we sign some less injury-prone players! #oufc
— Laura Sanders (@MissSanders9) May 2, 2013
Posted by Matt Bruce on 14:20. MATCH REPORTS,OXFORD CITY,OXFORDSHIRE SENIOR CUP,RESERVES,YOUTH - No comments
Oxford United are champions of Oxfordshire for the fourth time in five years after missing out on last year's final. It was an unusual match-up as a full-strength Oxford City side fresh from a successful debut season in the Conference North took on an experimental United lineup comprised of a mixture of young pros/youth team players and a smattering of current first-teamers (most of whom, I suspect, will have had their minds on the announcement of the retained list the following day).
City have just come off the back of a ridiculous run of matches, playing 12 games in April (an average of three matches per week) but if that left them tired out they didn't show it in the opening stages of the match as they threatened to run riot against the cobbled-together United side. 19-year-old Max Crocombe, who has looked assured in his recent first-team performances, was given a particularly tough time in the first half, finding himself caught out by a free-kick from United old-boy Jamie Cook, who was unlucky to see his effort come back off the frame of the goal.
|Picture from @OUFCsNumber31|
But while United were mostly reduced to chasing shadows for much of the first half, they responded well in the second and looked a lot brighter as the side began to settle. Youth team player Josh Ashby levelled the scores not long after the break with an excellent left-footed shot from outside the area which crept past City's teenage goalkeeper Nick Townsend (on loan from Birmingham).
And United were clearly in the ascendancy as they took the lead when Tyrone Marsh – who has been in good goalscoring form at Conference South Staines Town, scoring nine times in 16 appearances to help them avoid relegation – replicated Ashby's goal from the other side of the area. This appeared to sting City into action and they drew themselves level almost immediately as the commanding Darren Pond seized on a defensive mistake and slipped in top-scorer Felipe Barcelos to slide the ball past Crocombe. City were, perhaps understandably, the most keen to avoid extra time and pushed hard for a winner, but none came and the sides were forced to play an extra 30 minutes.
City were clearly tiring and JP Pittman – in his final appearance in a yellow shirt – took advantage as he accelerated through a gap in the defence and slipped the ball past Townsend to restore the lead. And from this point there looked to be little doubt about the final outcome, which was sealed in the final moments by substitute James Roberts – who has been on fire for the youth team this season – as he latched onto an excellent ball from Sam Long, beat his man and fired home to bring the Oxfordshire Senior Cup back to the Kassam.
|Picture from @OxfordMailOUFC|
United: Crocombe, Davies, Long, Capaldi, Lynn, Pittman, Heslop, Ashby, O'Dowda, Marsh, Constable (C)
City: Townsend, Benjamin, Learoyd, Willmott, Stonehouse, Pond, Ballard (C), Malone, Bell, Barcelos, Cook