By Michael Roberson,
This season, and for many previous, our home form has been our downfall. Where we’ve thrived on the road, the Kassam hasn’t been the fortress every manager wants their home ground to be. No opposition looks intimidated by the prospect of playing here, no away fans quietened by the roaring atmosphere here, no consistent form here. So, why? Why can I never enjoy the journey up to Grenoble Road, calm and assured of an excellent performance and three points? Why won’t the starting XI run the game like a home side should?
Firstly, there’s the atmosphere. Now, the introduction of the ‘Yellow Army’ to liven up match days is beginning to improve the vibe. But for a majority of the game the atmosphere often falls flat. The role of the fan to cheer his team on fails at points – granted because often there isn’t much to cheer. And this tense, unimpressed feeling from the fans will trickle down to the players who are receptive to the anxiety felt in the stands, increasing pressure on them to perform. The fans that make the long journeys away however are going to be in louder voice, cheering on the team through the lows, because they’ve made the long journey to a League Two ground. Perhaps it’s the lift the players experience only away from the Kassam that provokes a more effective style of football.
Talking of anxiety, maybe it’s the expectation of a win that can add to the pressure of the players, making them more nervous on the pitch. Three points are almost always what the fans expect from a home performance, maybe the players know this. And if they do, the expectation level rises, whereas on the road if we drop a point or three the players won’t be as disappointed because there isn’t that element of expectancy.
|Picture by @Daniel21Leggett|
One thing’s for sure though, right now we can’t blame the pitch. The summer investment of £50,000 means United have (at least for now) a pitch of high quality. Last season, the turf played its part in leading to some very poor passing and controlling the ball, but right now that can’t be considered a problem. Let’s moan about that later in the year when London Welsh have torn it to shreds!
And with the £50,000 we have available to invest on a pitch, it’s clear we’re a big club in this league. Like what we see at Old Trafford, maybe it’s a case of teams upping their game at a bigger club? I know we’re no Man Utd but you get what I’m saying.
Whatever it is that’s wrong at the moment though needs sorting. If we were to combine our solid away form with consistent performances and three points back in Oxford, we’d be looking like promotion favourites. At this rate though, it’s League Two for us again next season.