1st February 2014 ko 15.00
OXFORD UNITED 2 (Newey 40 Connolly 56)
AFC WIMBLEDON 1 (Wyke 75)
Att 5,745 (693 away)
Programme £3 (inc’ Oxford Mail)
A few years ago I was genuinely lonely. I was sat in a house that I was doomed to be leaving, on my own. Although friends and family spent plenty of time with me and I’ll always be grateful for their support, I didn’t start rebuilding my life until I moved out.
It felt a lot like that at Oxford United over the last few weeks with former manager Chris Wilder surrounded by people, but utterly alone with only his own thoughts for company. On Saturday with Wilder happily ensconced in a relegation battle at Northampton Town, it felt that the burden has been lifted on both club and former manager.
So, until the best candidate can be found, the caretaker manager is Mickey Lewis. The name “Lewis” has a resonance with the City of Oxford with Inspector Morse’s deputy, and of course Chronicles of Narnia author CS Lewis. Perhaps its only fitting that the former holding midfielder affectionately nicknamed “Mad Dog” gets another stint in charge over a decade after his first. At a stroke the universally popular Lewis galvanised the factions behind him, the atmosphere was as good as its been for quite some time.
One legacy from Chris Wilder was the arrival of striker David Connolly on loan from Portsmouth. One of Wilder’s frustrations was the lack of another striker, so the arrival of the 36 year old at least in part due to Wilder’s negotiations is ironic to put it mildly. Even more so given the impact he was to have on the game.
It all started slowly, with the front two of James Constable and Deane Smalley looking out of sorts. On the right wing Sean Rigg, looked even more removed from the action, and was clearly injured. His loss was Connolly’s gain, as he gave way for the debutant at half time.
Where I sit, there’s a standing joke, and that’s that United never score from corners. Nicky Wroe had taken a couple of poor efforts, but when Danny Rose’s corner was swung in, there was right-back Tom Newey on a late run to the near post to head home for his first goal for the club and the first headed goal of his professional career!
That reflected United’s dominance, and with Rigg not appearing for the second half, the visitors’ problems got worse as Constable’s layoff found Josh Ruffels whose through ball gave half a chance to Connolly. Crucially Dons keeper Ross Worner hesitated and that was enough for the former Portsmouth man. He steered the ball over the no-man’s-land that Wormer found himself in, and the ball crept into the empty net.
That really should have been it, but a sloppy header from stand-in centre half David Hunt allowed Charlie Wyke to race though. His initial shot was blocked by Ryan Clarke, but the rebound fell kindly for Wyke, and he was able to stab home to give the real Dons hope.
United responded by replacing the tired Constable with Dave Kitson, and for the last 6 minutes United had a forward line that cost various clubs £8 million in transfer fees, even if now their combined age is now 69! More significantly, the air of positivity was palpable, perhaps now that can be translated into better home form, and bigger crowds.