Sunday, 10 February 2013

MATCH REPORT: Oxford United 0-2 Bristol Rovers

Here's Jack Willows on a thoroughly miserable afternoon for Oxford:

It seems a long time now since Oxford won four on the bounce as they slumped to a disappointing defeat at the hands of Bristol Rovers leaving them without a win in their last four. A penalty – which even had to be retaken – and a controversial last minute goal from Eliot Richards was enough to seal a 2-0 win for the visitors as they continue their impressive run of form.

Oxford made three changes from the side that lost at Southend last weekend. Expectation weighed on Lewis Montrose’s home debut after an impressive performance at Bradford, which again, seems like a lifetime ago. Both Tony Capaldi and Liam Davis also came into the side.

United were on the back foot from the off, Rovers’ Danny Woodards forced McCormick into action inside the opening minute but the shot didn’t cause the United keeper any trouble.

The game was in desperate need of something to bring it to life, with neither side having a clear cut chance. Alfie Potter was called upon on the half-hour mark after Justin Richards picked up a knock.
Oxford started the brighter in the second half but ten minutes in, Jake Wright brought down Ryan Brunt and the referee pointed to the spot. Lee Brown stepped up and coolly slotted home past a stranded McCormick only to be told to retake it. Same place, same outcome and United found themselves 1-0 down.

Josh Parker came on for a tired looking Tony Capaldi and actually put in a good shift. Looking sharp and motivated, Parker chased down every chance he got – something which couldn’t be said for most of the United team yesterday.

United pushed for an equalizer, Constable had a fantastic chance to level after good work down the right from Parker only to see his shot fire into row Z, excuse the cliché.

Although United pushed for a goal they still looked un-inspired and it was with ten minutes to go that I left the scene. May I just point out there’s nothing I hate more than fans leaving early; it’s both disrespectful to the players and unnecessary. However, we weren’t going to get back into this game.

Chapman then saw a shot sail wide deep into stoppage time as that looked to be that. Rovers were then awarded a free-kick which they took quickly and found Richards who sealed the victory and left 1,900 fans from Bristol buoyant.

Now for a rant: On the subject of the attendance, 7600 fans were at the Kassam yesterday and quite frankly it could have been 1000. We were silent for a majority of the game and what’s worse; we were silent when our boys needed our backing. The attendances this season have been dreadful. And to fans who have decided to ‘stay away’ – what are you trying to achieve?

The performance was the second worst I have in recent memory (The worst being a home defeat against Morcambe last season which sparked the beginning of a dismal run of form and ultimately ruined our promotion hopes). BBC Oxford claimed that ‘the desire was there’ – a statement though, I couldn’t disagree more with. We looked tired from the off and never got going. Yes, we can blame the pitch – that’s the easy option, but there’s nothing we can do about it!

In terms of the players yesterday, the back five did well – excluding the occasional confusion. Wright and Raynes looked comfortable and Davis and Batt posed a threat down the flanks; further forward though the same cannot be said. Montrose was a passenger, unrecognizable from the combative midfielder that we saw at Bradford. Chapman was average, trying to dictate the play and ultimately do Leven’s job. Richards looked un-interested to be quite honest in the opening stages, maybe because he wasn’t fully fit. Tony Capaldi, please excuse me, but I can’t see what he brings to the side – I’d much rather see us give some of the youth players a run out. Constable was isolated and hence it’s understandable that he wasn’t alert when a chance did finally come his way.

To conclude, a bitterly cold and bleak Saturday afternoon made worse by a dismal and pitiful performance. The worry now is that United could find themselves 17th come Tuesday night and even lower come the weekend. We’re hitting a slump head on at the worst possible time of the season and something needs to change and bring the confidence back.

Excuse the aggressive report but something is desperately wrong at the club, and I can’t see how much longer things can go on like this. 

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