Tuesday 5th March 2013 ko 19.45
OXFORD UNITED 0
ROTHERHAM UNITED 4 (Noble 30 Arnason 33 Mullins 41 Pringle 44)
Att 5,169 (237 away)
Programme £3 (reissue from postponed game with insert) including Oxford Mail
I’m no enthusiast of computer games, but after leaving this game I imagined the “Team Selection” screen on a Football Manager game. Let’s put this in context, you’ve just beaten the 2 top sides in your division, one away from home, by switching to a one-up-front formation. You would have thought that with form like that the only change would be the change from the hideously out-of-form Adam Chapman, to the more combative Andy Whing in midfield, but keep doing what had worked previously.
Instead the baby was thrown out with the bath water, as there was a complete change in formation to a 3-4-3 with an obviously out-of-condition Michael Duberry as the focal point of 3 centre halves. In midfield Whing was supplemented by Sean Rigg and to the surprise of most Simon Heslop. Up front Deane Smalley lead the line, with Alfie Potter just behind, supplemented by wing-backs Liam Davis and Damian Batt.
Its looked odd, but for 30 minutes, and if Rigg hadn’t wasted a glorious chance blasting over in the 24th minute, who knows what may have happened. Instead The Millers scored when David Noble wasn’t picked up in midfield, but his 25 yard shot took a deflection off of Michael Raynes, wrong footing the keeper completely. It was a fortuitous goal, the next 14 minutes were anything but.
Oxford’s weakness at set-plays continues as Kari Arnason nodded home a corner unchallenged. The response was to push Michael Raynes into midfield and convert the wing-backs to full-backs. It looked half-baked, and it meant what little width there had been was sacrificed. More importantly it didn’t solve the immediate problem, ponderous, ill-advised defending. Former OUFC loanee Johnny Mullins was allowed an enternity before rifling home, and Ben Pringle must have wondered where the defenders had disappeared to, he was given so much time before tapping in for the fourth. The side were booed off at half-time, but after the break there was a remarkable transformation, even if it didn’t happen on the pitch.
Josh Parker and Scott Davies replaced the Heslop and Duberry as Oxford actually used players suitable for the formation, but the damaged was done, and Rotherham were happy to play champage football knowing they’d won the tie. Lee Frecklington missed a gilt-edge chance, but Oxford didn’t look like scoring, hardly surprising when the likes of Tom Craddock and James Constable remained on the bench.
During all this the Oxford Mail Stand kept behind the team. The Great Escape Theme, was sung throughout, a conga was started, and there can be no criticism of their contribution. It was obvious what was going to happen and once the final whistle was over and done with, the boos, and “Wilder Out,” chants started. You could hardly blame them, but there was a song earlier that summed up the night far more accurately. “All we want is a team of Andy Whings,” was a massive filip to a player that never gives up, and a wake-up all to the majority of the others, who need to raise their efforts massively if they wish to continue playing League football next season.
As I write Adam Chapman has become the first departure, making his debut for Mansfield Town at Woking last night, on loan for the rest of the season with a view to a permanent move. Perhaps the others might heed his example.