Saturday 10th July 2014 ko 14.00
FARNBOROUGH 1 (Lucas Enrique 77)
OXFORD UNITED 2 (Roberts 71 Ashby 76)
Sometimes you re-visit a ground and find the place almost completely different from your previous visit. My first visit to Cherrywood Road, I’m sorry but I can’t get used to Paddy Power Park, was during Graham Westley’s time as owner/manager here.
I found a rich club, with a talented team but ill-at-ease. Westley had renamed the ground the A.I.M.I.T.A. stadium after his pet piece of management-babble (Attitude is more important than ability). He’d changed the club colours and badge too and the club went through insolvency when Westley departed soon after an FA cup tie at Arsenal. The club got back its identity, albeit a huge cost, so I was interested in the club’s progress since my first visit.
The most obvious change is the huge seated stand behind one goal, making the ground Football League complaint. Yes, there’s no money now, most of the players were triallists, and the budget is tiny for a club in the Conference South, but what I took away from the experience was that the club had regained their self-esteem, and you can’t put a price on that.
Oxford United sent the inevitable squad of 24, with wholesale changes at half-time, whilst Farnborough plumped for rolling changes, which given the heat was no bad thing! Oxford opted not to play new signing Danny Hylton, and with the likes of David Hunt and Calum O’Dowda missing too the squad relied heavily on youth.
And it was youth that supplied both Oxford goals. Josh Ashby saw his free kick palmed on to the post, before Miles Welch-Hayes combined well with new pro James Roberts for the latter to open the scoring. The missed free kick proved to be sighter, as soon after Ashby’s free-kick curled beautifully past Conner O’Hara is the home goal.
Now its not often I get to talk about the kick-off following a goal. I don’t think there’s much point describing what Farnborough triallist Lucas Enrique did next, only to comment that he and all those present will remember it forever, enjoy the footage!
That of course is with the exception of triallist goalkeeper Liam Roberts! He’ll remember the goal, but it was a minor blemish on an excellent half for him. With Ryan Clarke out injured for the start of the season, Roberts could well find himself as back-up to Max Crocombe.
Of course you shouldn’t read too much into friendlies, so perhaps the way to look at this is to view this as a trip to a club that has regained its worth and identity. Perhaps that’s why I enjoyed my afternoon so much.