Saturday 17th December 2011
OXFORD UNITED 2 (Craddock 50 Smalley 87) Craddock missed pen 86
NORTHAMPTON TOWN 0 Akinfenwa missed pen 90
Att 7,517 (748 away)
Programme (inc Oxford Mail) £3
There’s a mere 46 miles from the clubs’ stadia, but there’s no great rivalry between the two teams. Oxford hate Swindon, and Northampton hate Kettering and until recently Rushden & Diamonds. Add to that very little playing contact between the two clubs until the day Ian Atkins became Oxford United manager and took a fair percentage of his successful Cobblers team with him. While the football was awful to watch Atkins was the only succesful manager while Firoz Kassam was chairman.
Despite all of that there was little extra intensity to this game. Northampton brought and decent following to boost what would have been a depleted pre-Christmas crowd.
The first half was a forgettable affair, with United lacking an anchor on midfield, and Northampton looking a team in transition from the loose, losing passing side to a tighter, dare I say uglier outfit typical of new manager Aidy Boothroyd. At that point easily the best player on the park was the portly figure of Cobbler’s striker Ade Akinfenwa, whose vision and touch seemed lost on those around him.
After the break Northampton looked noticeably more direct, the ball being biffed down the channels a lot, not a bad tactic for League 2 but useless for playing to an immobile striker.
Oxford took the lead on 50 minutes when Johnson’s poor clearance fell straight to Potter. He passed to Craddock who was allowed far too much space in which to turn and shoot home from 12 yards. He ran to celebrate with the physiotherapist who treated him through a long spell injured.
On 85 minutes Johnson’s unfortunate afternoon continued as he tripped Craddock in the box. Craddock and Leven argued as to who should take the penalty, and Leven must have been seething as Craddock’s spot kick disappeared into the car park, damaging a wing mirror!
In the final analysis it didn’t matter as Constable found space on the left and looked up to see Deane Smalley at the back post. Smalley had the easiest opportunity to tap the ball in for his first goal at home. A long time coming for a man who a lot was expected.
Heslop’s miss from Tonkin’s cross defied belief but so did what followed, in injury time. Batt was penalised for handball, but if Craddock’s penalty was missed, then Akinfenwa’s was definitely saved, Clarke diving at full stretch to his left.
Progress of a sort for United, and Northampton will feel that there’s every reason to believe that the new regime will ensure League survival. That, perhaps is why there’s so little rivalry.