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Thursday 26th December 2013 ko 15.00

League 2

OXFORD UNITED 2 (Hall 66 Nelson 88og)

PLYMOUTH ARGYLE 3 (Lavery 46 Reid 81p 97)

Att 10,049 (699 away)

then

Saturday 29th December 2013 ko 15.00

League 2

OXFORD UNITED 0 Smalley missed pen 83

SCUNTHORPE UNITED 2 (Burton 11 Syers 71) Burton missed pen 39

Att 6,009 (527 away)

Entry S/T

Programmes £3 each

Normally I don’t lump games together, but since the games, and results were so similar if seems daft not to do so.

On Boxing Day, the club pulled out all the stops to get a bumper crowd. The styled “Big Match,” saw an opera singer, and pyrotechnics to help create an electric atmosphere, and the cute marketing created a 5-digit crowd primed to watch Oxford United push on towards promotion. Except the team let down everyone by producing a performance so lack-lustre than all Plymouth had to do was wait for the defensive errors and pick United off. Asa Hall’s 30-yard blast was a brief highlight in a poor display.

For today’s game, there was but one change in personnel, Deane Smalley replacing the suspended (2 games) Dave Kitson. Kitson’s influence was missed massively, but Smalley’s performance was dreadful, missing a host of chances, other than the penalty. He’ll get another chance on New Year’s Day at Newport, if he fails again then decision to offer him another contract last summer will start to look like folly.

But Smalley isn’t the problem here, as bad as his performance was. The problem is central midfield, particularly when Kitson either isn’t there or is off-form. United tend to play with 2 wingers, at the moment Sean Rigg and Ryan Williams, and Chris Wilder seems to play two holding midfielders Danny Rose and Asa Hall, to maintain solidity. The trouble is that Danny Rose is no holding midfielder. Where he is he flits in and out of games, the odd nice pass but for far too long in each game he operates with little effect.

The more pressing need though is Asa Hall. With his loan deal expiring in the new year, and Andy Whing out until February the club needs to either re-sign Hall or replace him. Of course, with disappointing crowds is there the money to facilitate this?

In today’s programme chairman Ian Lenagan made some interesting comments about sport management. He talked about running the club along principles adopted by Sir Dave Brailsford at UK Cycling. The overriding one is “Aggregation of marginal gains,” where small gains eventually produce success. Football tends to run on the “Silver Bullet” principle where if something doesn’t work, simply replace the manager.

Have a think about that for second, it really is completely ingrained in football, look at the buffoonery at Cardiff City where Vincent Tan has sacked a perfectly competent manager in Malky Mackay (an OUFC target once!) with no obvious replacement lined up. Even the front-runner Ole Gunnar Solsjkaer, has Sir Alex Ferguson as his mentor, but I bet Mr Tan hasn’t worked out who Fergie’s best friend is, yes, Malky Mackay Senior, his former manager’s father. It does rather point to Lenagan’s methods being correct but for one caveat.

Its this, is the incumbent the right man for the job? And if not who is, and are they available? As the old Chinese curse says, “May you live in interesting times!”