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Saturday 6th October 2012 ko 3pm

League 2

OXFORD UNITED 0

GILLINGHAM 0

Att 6,690 (1,014 away)

Entry S/T

Programme £3 (ic Ox Mail)

Choices, Choices…. So many games I could have chosen, the Bedfordshire hop was busy attracting around 100 people to each of its three games, and there was no lack of other attractive looking games. In the end two things influenced my decision, sheer exhaustion after one of the busiest Septembers ever, and the chance to catch up with schoolfriends Saleem and Carmine after the game. I hadn’t seen them for over 20 years, so it was an easy decision to make.

There was also the hope if not expectation that Oxford United had turned the corner. The 3-2 win over AFC Wimbledon had ended a dreadful run of 6 straight defeats, but the Gills were a different prospect altogether, top of the table, unbeaten away, and with confidence high.

First on the agenda was the presentation of David Langan to the crowd. David was a hero to anyone who grew up watching Oxford during the 1980’s as the club reached the top flight and won the League Cup. His overlapping runs made him a popular fixture at right back, but injuries took their toll, and he still suffers from the aftermath of the operations and injections. His autobiography, “Running through walls,” looks to be an involving read.

But back to the game in hand. With Wayne Brown injured Chris Wilder had little alternative but to restore Ryan Clarke between the sticks, and with Michael Raynes out injured his former teammate John Mullins arrived on loan to 2013 in the morning from Rotherham. It was to be those two players that had the most influence on the game, Clarke pulling off 4 stunning saves, and Mullins looking anything other than an unwanted defender at a fellow League 2 club who hadn’t even trained with the team.

It became clear that the number one priority was to keep midfielder Chris Whelpdale quiet. That they managed, of a fashion although Jake Forster-Caskey did have to clear a glancing header off the line from the former Peterborough man. Stirring stuff, and if the grit will have pleased manager Wilder, the increasing injury list will have not. First Damian Batt limped off then Deane Smalley struggled to make it through to half time. Surprisingly after the break he was replaced by Tom Craddock rather than the more obvious James Constable.

It took until almost the hour mark for United to create their first shot on target, Potter seeing his effort tipped over the bar by Stuart Nelson. Constable eventually was introduced for the last 10 minutes, and very nearly set up the winner, his reverse pass from the right found Craddock whose shot was deflected over the bar. It just shows how the small the margins are between success and failure. I wonder what will happen when Wilder is able to select anything like his first choice eleven? In the meantime, I think just about every Oxford United would have taken the clean sheet before this game kicked off.