Saturday 8th December 2012 ko 15.00
OXFORD UNITED 1 (Chapman 33) Heslop sent off 90 (dangerous play)
ALDERSHOT TOWN 1 (Mekki 84)
Att 5,721 (244 away)
Programme (inc Ox Mail) £3
On occasion I take a friend of mine to football. He loves his sport, but he’s a man of definite opinions. He watch some leagues but not others, and some formats he loves, others he won’t touch. Life is in two comforting shades, black and white.
This was an afternoon in which he would have felt comfortable; one of those dull pre-Christmas games where people can shout for the manager or the chairman’s head in the near-certain knowledge that their wish will not be granted.
It had been a difficult week for Oxford United. As if losing two players, Jon-Paul Pittman and Andrew Whing to injury wasn’t bad enough, the club had been rocked to its core by the death of former midfielder Mitchell Cole the weekend before. His career had ended to a heart defect a year ago, but had remained close to the club, and so his passing at just 27 was incredibly sad. It was announced before a minute’s applause that his widow had just given birth to his third child.
Of course supporters tend to forget the human nature side of the game. It cannot be easy simply functioning, let alone doing your job under such tragic circumstances, and certainly many of United’s frailties were on display for all to see. There was little punch up front save for a glaring James Constable miss early on, and Peter Leven’s lack of mobility in midfield saw partner Adam Chapman frequently exposed. I wondered if the unfortunate Whing had been fit, whether Chapman would have started,and with Whing’s lack of scoring prowess. Chapman’s clinical finish from 18 yards was a moment of class in a game that looked precisely what it was, a game between two struggling teams.
The second half saw no demonstrable improvement in quality, but with United having failed to take advantage of their first half possession, Aldershot gradually took the ascendancy and when substitute Adam Mekki curled a delicious effort round Ryan Clarke it was as predictable as it was deserved. It was fair to say that Aldershot gained far more from their substitutions than Oxford did, and that point was underlined when Simon Heslop was dismissed with a minute left for a quite dreadful challenge. Whilst his 3 game ban won’t hurt the team as much as some other players absences, the club need all the bodies they can get at the moment.
From the visitors’ perspective, second from bottom of the league, this was a valuable point. However this wasn’t a day of black and white opinions, just an occasion to forget about what went on the pitch and consider the plight of a widow and three young children.