5 of the Best Oxford Comebacks

We take a look back at five of the most spectacular comebacks available on the internet.

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The Curse of the Kassam?

A pair of articles examining Oxford's poor home form and speculating on the reasons why. In the first we lay the blame on the counter-attacking system. In the second, we examine the role of the home fans.

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The Future's Bright

Oxford's under-18s outclass their Swindon counterparts, leaving your writer purring over their future prospects in the first team.

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The Importance of Width in League Two

Why Sean Rigg and Alfie Potter's form will be essential to our hopes of League Two promotion this season.

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We'll Win Nothing With Kids?

We look at whether the young development squad players are ready to step up to first team action.

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Tuesday, 29 January 2013

PREVIEW: Burton Albion Home (29/01/13)

Oxford have an opportunity to immediately put Saturday's crushing by Fleetwood out of our minds, as Burton Albion come to town. It's impossible to understate the importance of an immediate reaction to Saturday's defeat, because the last thing we want is for this result to trigger another terrible run like we've already seen earlier in the season.

Burton's away form should perhaps give us some cause for optimism in that respect. They've not won away from home in the league since the beginning of November and only 12 of their 45 points this season have come on the road. But they do come into the game on the back of a 1-0 win over Barnet at the weekend and currently find themselves level on points with third-placed Northampton.

Goalkeeper Stuart Tomlinson kept a clean sheet in his first game back from injury, and Burton could prove to be a tough side to break down with the commanding presence of new loan signing Ian Sharps at the back. The Brewers could look to make changes elsewhere on the field, however, particularly up front where goals have been hard to come by, finding the net just three times since the turn of the year.

The real headline coming into the match, though, is the return of James Constable after his recent suspension. He looks set to partner Tom Craddock up front, with loanee Justin Richards obviously unavailable against his parent club. But after a defensive horrorshow at Fleetwood perhaps the real focus should be at the back, with stand-in goalkeeper Wayne Brown coming in for some particular criticism after his recent showings. One other key factor could be the fitness of Lewis Montrose, who was particularly impressive against Bradford, but was out with a tight hamstring at the weekend.

Having maintained a fairly impressive record against Burton during our time in the Conference, since returning to the Football League the Brewers have proven to be tough opposition. Our solitary Football League victory over them was a 3-0 home victory in 2010-11, but since then there can be no doubting which side has had the better fortune. Barnet came back from 2-0 down to secure a 2-2 draw on their last visit to the Kassam and dished out a 4-0 thumping at the Pirelli earlier this season.

Also This Week

Oxford's reserves play their first fixture since pulling out of the Football Combination at the end of last season, facing Hellenic League Chinnor in the quarter-finals of the Oxfordshire Senior Cup. The match kicks off at 19:30 on Wednesday at Thame United's ASM Stadium, and we might expect to see a fairly strong side being fielded, probably with a mix of senior fringe players (including youngsters Tyrone Marsh and Max Crocombe) as well as some youth players.

The Under-17 apprentice side also has a scheduled home game that evening in the Conference Youth Alliance, against Dartford Whites. However, the game may be in doubt after their planned League Cup game at home to Chelmsford City was postponed on Monday. Should the game go ahead, the fifth-placed apprentices will be looking for revenge over the league leaders, after they succumbed to a 3-0 defeat in the reverse fixture back in October.

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Monday, 28 January 2013

Fleetwood Town 3-0 Oxford United: The Match in Tweets

Oxford came crashing back to Earth with a crushing 3-0 defeat away Fleetwood. If last weekend's break from football slowed the momentum from an excellent eight-match unbeaten run in the league, this result has surely stopped it dead in its tracks. On a positive note, at least we don't support Swindon...

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Saturday, 26 January 2013

PREVIEW: Fleetwood Town Away (26/01/13)

After a week's break Oxford are back in action with another of those long trips up north we all love so much. Nevertheless, the last time we ventured into that grim wasteland known as 'the north' we came home with three points thanks to an impressive 2-1 win over League Cup giant-killers Bradford City – shockingly, the first time we've picked up three points north of Oxford all season.

Our opponents this weekend are Fleetwood Town, currently ninth (and two points ahead of us) in League Two during their debut season in the Football League. This will be the first time the two clubs have met, mainly due to the fact that for most of Fleetwood's brief history (this version of the club was only formed in 1997) they have plied their trade at step 5 of the non-league pyramid or below. That they have reached the Football League in remarkable fashion by winning five promotions during the last seven years would be a true football fairy tale – if not for the accusations of astounding levels of financial doping.

Regardless of how they reached this level or the money they are spending to maintain their upwards trajectory, Fleetwood are a serious force to contend with at this level and were immediately installed as one of the pre-season favourites for promotion. And they started well, finding themselves in the running for promotion in the early stages of the season, but a slight blip since then has seen them slip to ninth as well as giving the boot to manager Micky Mellon, who won two promotions in four years at the club. If anything, Fleetwood's slump in form has only been exacerbated by the managerial shake-up, with the club picking up just eight points from a possible 21 since Mellon's sacking and come into this match on the back of successive defeats to Northampton and Bristol Rovers.

They do, however, have the resources to inject some fresh impetus when things start to stagnate and they have been extremely active during the transfer window. The arrival of Paul McKenna on loan from Hull on Friday is their fifth signing of 2013 in a spending spree which has also seen them shell out a record fee (upwards of £200,000) for prolific Kidderminster Harriers striker Jamille Matt. Whether this means they will be fresh and raring to go, or unfamiliar and failing to 'gel', remains to be seen.

As for ourselves, we have plenty of reason to feel positive going into this match, with Deane Smalley and Adam Chapman both available for selection after their recent injuries. James Constable is, of course, still suspended for this match and the season-long absence of Ryan Clarke is a huge blow, but the incredibly experienced Wayne Brown should be up to the task of deputising for him.

Also This Weekend

The youth team resume their Youth Alliance campaign this weekend with a home game against Hereford United – their first league game since their 1-0 win over Swindon at the start of December. The young U's will be looking to recover from their disappointing FA Youth Cup defeat at Barnsley, and form is at least on their side – they have already beaten Hereford 3-1, 9-2 and 7-2 this season.

This weekend is a huge one for the ladies team and one which could well define the future of the club for years to come. They entertain second-placed Keynsham Town on Sunday and victory would extend their lead at the top of the table to seven points (Keynsham have two games in hand) and give them a stranglehold on top spot – vital in a league with just one promotion spot. And promotion this season could well be the decisive for the ladies' WSL 2014 application.

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Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Cult Hero: Kevin Francis

This is the first edition of a new series here on TBFUTH (or rather, a new iteration of an older idea) in which we will be profiling former OUFC 'Cult Heroes'. The aim is to celebrate the careers of those players who have enlivened our experience of supporting the club - be it through their footballing prowess or simply their character – but who we may hesitate to grant 'legendary' status. Thanks to everyone who has already got in touch with us via Twitter to suggest players for this feature – if you'd like to suggest one yourself, or even write us an article on your favourite OUFC cult hero, you can email us at tbfuth@hotmail.co.uk.

We'll start with the almost-inhumanly-tall, 6ft 7in striker Kevin Francis.

'Super' Kevin Francis was perhaps a victim of his unusual physical appearance, in that he simply didn't look like a footballer as he loped around the field on his long, gangly legs. Certainly it seemed to hinder his early development and Francis spent his formative years playing for Redditch United and then the now-defunct Mile Oak Rovers in the Midland Combination (10th tier) before Derby County chose to take a punt on him.

It was at Stockport County that Francis really made his name and he was prolific during his four years at Edgeley Park before securing a move to Birmingham City. From there, he made his way to Oxford as part of the deal which took the hugely important Darren Purse the other way and initial reaction amongst the United faithful was that we had lost one of our most important players (true) in return for a complete donkey (not so true).

But that impression didn't last long as Super Kev made an instant impact, scoring one and creating one to help United to a 2-1 victory over West Brom on his debut. Francis was instantly installed as a fans' favourite, going on to score seven times in his first 11 matches and the unlikely hero of the London Road was rewarded for his excellent start to life in yellow with an international call-up for St Kitts & Nevis, making him one of the select few players to win an international cap while at Oxford.

Francis missed the first half of the 98-99 season due to injury, but continued to endear himself to the fans even while he was on the sidelines, famously clambering into the London Road stand during one match to lead the singing.

He returned to action just in time for perhaps our biggest game of the season – and certainly the one which he has since become most remembered for. At this point Oxford were in severe financial difficulties, but the club's plight was brought into the public eye thanks to a live televised FA Cup tie against Chelsea. With the final whistle fast approaching and cash-strapped United clinging to an incredible 1-0 lead, Francis – who was making his first appearance off the bench since his return from injury – was shockingly adjudged to have fouled Gianluca Vialli in the box to give Chelsea an undeserved last-minute equaliser, thus denying a famous cup upset.
Kevin Francis was not the most elegant player, shall we say, and he sometimes looked a bit clumsy. The referee saw that awkward challenge and that marred his vision of it. If those cameras back then were as good as what we have today they would show without doubt that he never touched him - Nicky Banger

To some extent this incident came to be the defining moment in Francis' time at Oxford, though he was no less popular for it due to the sense of injustice that surrounded it. But Francis was never the same player afterwards and he scored just once more during his time at the club, returning to Stockport in 2000.

On an interesting side-note, Francis has had quite an interesting career since his retirement from football in 2005, leaving for Canada to become a trucker. He now plies his trade as a police officer in Calgary.

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Sunday, 20 January 2013

On This Day - 20/01/88

With the snow obliterating our footballing plans this weekend we have to turn to the archives to get our football fix, and where better to look than to exactly 25 years ago today, when Manchester United came to the Manor for a League Cup quarter-final tie.

For Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson it was the first time he had brought a side to the Manor since his ignominious defeat in his first game in charge, but for the mighty yellows it offered the opportunity for another great cup night during a period when a distraction from the league was perhaps more welcome than it is today. Oxford were winless in ten league games coming into this match - in fact, we hadn't won a single match since defeating Wimbledon in the previous round. By contrast, we had only been beaten once during the previous three seasons in the League Cup and Wembley was again looking like a distinct possibility.

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Monday, 14 January 2013

MATCH REPORT: Bradford City 1-2 Oxford United

Leven is Spot On

I'm not sure how to approach this report. It has been 15 games since I saw us win stretching back to December 2010. A winning report is an unusual experience.

The victory was much deserved, Oxford took a stranglehold of the game right from the first whistle. Sean Rigg tested home keeper Matt Duke and new signing Lewis Montrose headed over from a corner. Despite the early dominance, United fell behind to a Nakhi Wells goal; a long ball from the Bradford defence bounced in between Michael Duberry and Wayne Brown. Duberry was alert to the situation and nodded the ball back to where he thought Brown was. In fact, the goalkeeper wasn't there and Wells chased down the loose ball to squeeze home from a tight angle.

This setback could have unsettled United but instead of going into their shell they came out in the search of an equaliser and it took just four minutes to come along. Damian Batt and Alfie Potter combined well to set up Peter Leven who laid the ball back for Rigg to lash an unstoppable shot past Duke and into the back of the net. Game on!

Leven and Potter were both thwarted by Duke before Montrose picked up a booking for a robust challenge on a Bradford player. The first half performance was very positive from the U's with debutant Montrose impressing and a new look back five of Batt, Raynes, Duberry, Wright and Davis looking very comfortable. Lone frontman Justin Richards was full of running and endeavour whilst Potter and Rigg were once again proving a handful for the Bradford defence.

At 1-1, the thought in the United camp may have been that it would be a very good point to pick up. But Chris Wilder had clearly told his team to go for it in the second half. Duke again saved from Rigg before Alfie Potter had a header cleared off the line. Liam Davis soon joined the list of players that Duke had stopped and Duberry saw a header hit the crossbar. The missed chances were a worry, being an Oxford fan, it was easy to predict a Bradford counter attack and goal but in truth Wayne Brown had little to do in the entire game apart from pick the ball out of his net in the first five minutes.

With the clock approaching ninety minutes, Potter picked up the ball on the edge of the Bradford box and set off on a mazy run, it was crudely ended by a sliding Stephen Darby and referee Jeremy Simpson pointed to the spot. Up stepped Leven and dispatched the ball into the roof of Duke's net to seal the victory and send the U's back to Oxfordshire with a first win in Yorkshire for five years.

The win followed up consecutive victories against Exeter, Wimbledon and Cheltenham and see United just two points off the play-offs with a game in hand. Games against two teams also in the play-off hunt follow with Rotherham United visiting the Kassam next week before our first ever fixture against Fleetwood Town in Lancashire.

Just as a number of fans were beginning to lose faith in the team, Chris Wilder and anyone else they could think of, the tide has turned and United sit top of the form table. Positive results in the next two games would surely place the Yellows in the playoff positions and then who knows what could happen.

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Friday, 11 January 2013

PREVIEW: Bradford City Away (12/01/13)

For most of this season, our league form has been disappointing and the cups have provided a welcome pick-me-up. But the situation is reversed this weekend as we head into a league game looking to recover from double cup defeat. Hopefully those two losses in the FA Cup and JPT won't affect our confidence too badly and we can continue our recent league form, which sees us unbeaten in seven League Two matches and now just five points behind the play-off places.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

MATCH REPORT: Oxford United 3-3 Southend United

Just days after our FA Cup disappointment against Sheffield United, Oxford were knocked out of a second cup competition, bowing out of the JPT on penalties at the hands of Southend. While it is less of a shame to be out of the much maligned Trophy the manner of the defeat did hurt, coming cruelly from the penalty spot. It also, of course, means the end of our cup adventures for this season and allows us to roll out the 'concentrate on the league' cliches.