Friday, 11 October 2013

Why Are Oxford So Poor at Home?

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
Another problem at home is that we’re not positive enough. Many times if we do go a goal up we tend to sit back and commit fewer men forward. Not to the same extent as in the Atkins days, but we need to kill teams off and we very rarely do. When was the last time we really dominated any side at home? If we want the opposition to be afraid of playing here, this aspect’s got to improve.

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. 

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'Why are Oxford so poor at home' No simple answer to this, probably a multitude of reasons- and the man responsible for getting results on the pitch doesn't seem to have an answer either.
In my many years of supporting the Club I can vouch that Oxford fans are no less passionate about their Club than any others are of theirs.
It's not the Stadium imo, although the atmosphere would be improved with a 4th stand. There has been a handful of home matches where the atmosphere has been tremendous, eg swinedom and Luton, although these have been exceptional they prove it can be done!
For the two mentioned matches above the occasion alone created the atmosphere, for 'lesser' matches the spark needs to come from the pitch- and here's where the problem might lie, the players donot seem to be motivated and the manager seems incapable of lifting them or making changes during a match when things are going awry.
This leads to a nervous home crowd, which transfers to the players- this obviously does not help them.
Yes the players have to take responsibility once on the pitch- but it's the manager's job to do his best to make sure his players are in the right frame of mind and are going out to WIN!!
Get it right on the pitch and the supporters will give their vocal backing, it's down to the team and manager to deliver a performance and result.
We cannot afford yet another poor result against Northampton on Saturday, anything short of a win and three points would undo all the great work 'On the road.'

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