, , , , , , , ,

Saturday 11th January 2014 ko 15.00

League 2



Att 8,443 (2,365 away)

Entry S/T

Programme £3 (incl Oxford Mail)

If you look at a standard London Monopoly board and find the Water Works, you’ll find that one of the adjoining properties is Coventry Street. Given that Oxford United’s ground is close to Thames Water’s treatment works, that fact seems apposite for United, especially as the property is coloured yellow….

This week Taylor Wimpey started preliminary talks with Oxford City Council to build houses and flats on the overspill car park behind the Ozone complex, in the corners between the stands, and in the space where the 4th stand could go. Whilst the planners will insist that the ability to build the 4th stand mustn’t be jeopardised, it was impossible not to see and understand the impact those developments would have on matchdays.

The stadium was only three-quarters full, and yet the car parks were full 2 hours before kick-off, the only way I was able to park at a reasonable time, was due to Dad and his Blue Badge. Imagine the situation, with fewer parking spots and/or a fuller stadium?

Of course Firoz Kassam is only doing what any monopoly player would do, he’s improving his property by putting houses and hotels on it. Yes, that does mean the value of the property would rise, pushing it still further out of the reach of the club. There’s something in it for the council too, with a city-wide housing shortage, a reasonable amount of any development given over to social housing would be an easy sell to a Labour controlled authority. The reduction on Free Parking, yep the Monopoly board again, would not worry Britain’s least car-friendly city one iota, even if it may create traffic chaos, and make it impossible for my elderly father to watch the club he’s watched since 1946. The cold hand of Kassam continues to cast a malevolent shadow over this club.

Heaven help us if it goes as sour as it did for Portsmouth, who are still struggling to escape the financial yoke of the past, they are I’m led to believe still paying Oxford United’s Dave Kitson more than Oxford United are, which is a savage indictment of the Ancien Régime at Fratton. It was both strange and gratifying to see the 2,000-plus shareholders opposite in the North Stand. I just have got too used with Oxford United to the light at the end of the tunnel being the light of an oncoming train.

The match was a case in point, with United playing Portsmouth on their amazing support rather than their precarious league position. With Asa Hall back at Shrewsbury, Nicky Wroe was brought in from Preston for the rest of the season on loan to replace him. The surprise was that manager Chris Wilder opted to completely change the shape of the team. Michael Raynes came into the defence, with Johnny Mullins pushed forward into the holding midfielder’s role. Danny Rose and Wroe played in front of him, with Sean Rigg and Ryan Williams playing either side, and behind Deane Smalley.

Smalley’s position may well have been dictated by James Constable not training until Thursday, and with Kitson serving the final game of a two match suspension, Wilder’s option was to play Smalley on his own, or play Smalley with Tyrone Marsh. Marsh doesn’t look like getting a start, the line-up looked like a nil-nil waiting to happen, and that is exactly what happened.

Neither side were capable of consistently imposing their will on a dire first half, just Tom Newey’s header over the bar from a Rose corner breaking up the torpor. It improved a little after the break, Pompey worked hard and made themselves hard to break down, but the United were far too happy to be solid, and play pretty, but ineffectual passes in midfield. Constable replaced Smalley to little effect, and the yellow cards flowed when referee Mark Heywood tired of players breaking up play by foul means.

It was an obvious goalless draw well before the final whistle, but the most disappointing part was afterwards hearing both sets of management being far too content with the draw. Surely both clubs had reason enough to aim for better? After all even in football you can’t just pick up £200 for simply passing “GO!”