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Saturday 24th November 2012

Ko 10.30

Oxford University Middle Common Room League

WOLFSON/St CROSS P

UNIVERSITY COLLEGE P

Postponed due to a waterlogged pitch (!)

Ko 15.00

League 2

OXFORD UNITED 2 (Constable 14 Pittman 79)

NORTHAMPTON TOWN 1 (Platt 76) Carlisle sent off 89 (2nd booking)

Att 6,635 (1,075 away)

Entry S/T

Programme £3 (ic Ox Mail)

Its been a long time since I did a Middle Common Room game. Its a league primarily for post-graduate students, perfect for Wolfson, a purely post-graduate college, and 10.30am kick-off games work well for me, when Oxford United are a home. The trouble is that Wolfson sits on the banks of the River Cherwell, bucolic when its sunny, but flood-prone when it rains. And it’s rained here for most of the week, so I really should have guessed that the pitch wouldn’t be playable, but I didn’t expect it to be this bad!

Still it left me one game to see, unlike many groundhoppers, with games falling to waterlogged pitches all over the country, and my game was a local derby too! The odd thing is that there’s never been any great rivalry between Oxford or Northampton with the former being far more concerned with swindon, and the latter Kettering. Still “Ultimate Support Saturday” did produce a better-than-average gate helped in no small part by the travelling Cobblers fans.

They got a good game too, with the action making up for technical deficiences, and the appalling weather. Oxford United and the supporters know what Ade Akinfenwa gives to the Cobblers, he’s portly but he’s still one hell of a player. Few players at this level have his control and vision, and he was marshalled carefully. Also well known to United is midfielder Chris Hackett, who started his career at Oxford before moves to Hearts and Millwall. He marked his return with a fine game showing both pace, and a glut of well place passes, and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one wondering why United didn’t re-sign him in the summer?

But for all of that this was Oxford’s day. Was James Constable offside when he tapped in Alfie Potter’s cross? He looked it, but the linesman’s decision was probably based on a feeling that Potter’s pass was entirely lateral and so Constable was always behind the ball. Either way home fans will point to the woodwork being hit twice, by Jake Forster-Caskey and Sean Rigg’s deflected effort.

As befits any side managed by Aidy Boothroyd, Northampton were well-drilled and a series of corners at the end of the first half tested Ryan Clarke in the home goal, and he did well to get down to Ben Harding’s low shot.

Cliches are cliches for a reason, and one goal was never going to be enough with Oxford’s defensive frailties, and the introduction of the towering figure of Clive Platt after an hour proved to be significant. With Michael Raynes keeping Akinfenwa quiet, he rose above Jake Wright to head Hackett’s cross home. I wondered what that meant for Chris Wilder’s tenure as manager. I didn’t ponder for long as Peter Leven’s ball over the top allowed subsitute Jon-Paul Pittman to run throuugh and he blasted home past Lee Nicholls for his first goal in 10 months, and earning Oxford a first win in 4 matches.

All that remained was the dismissal of Clark Carlisle for his second booking. It made no impact on the game but I wonder if getting sent off is more embarrassing when you’re PFA chairman? The Press Association reported his second booking was for foul and abusive language, but after the game Northampton Town swiftly asked that it be altered to a simple foul. For the record, I saw the 2nd booking as for a foul challenge, and there was no hint of any back-chat. It is worth noting that the PA feed is staffed by former players sourced by, yes, the PFA!

I used the term “Predictably Unpredictable” on a previous piece on Oxford United, and nothing I saw in this highly entertaining game changed my opinion on the club, and in a wider sense the division. I do wonder what chairman Ian Lenagan is thinking though. 18th place does not represent the level of ambition, or expenditure at the club. Some might say a change is needed, but if so who?