Tuesday 2nd October 2012 ko 19.45
OXFORD UNITED 3 (Forster-Caskey 8 Smalley 55 Potter 81)
AFC WIMBLEDON 2 (Harrison 20 Fenlon 36)
Att 5,206 (274 away)
Programme £3 (inc Oxford Mail)
Of all the statistics above, I suspect the important one may well end up being the attendance. Ok this was dull Tuesday evening, between 2 struggling teams, but 5,200 is low by OUFC standards. Its not difficult to understand why, Oxford United having lost 6 league games on the bounce, and with a quite appalling injury list. Nevertheless manager Chris Wilder found himself under more pressure than any other time during his tenure at the club and for the first time, it told.
You can always tell when the manager’s time is running out, the fight goes out of them. Remember Steve McClaren’s game in charge of England, standing forlornly under an umbrella, impotant as Croatia stopped England qualifying for the 2008 European Championships? When Wimbledon went 2-1 after 36 minutes, I watched Wilder, the head dropped, and I feared the worst for him. The comparison was obvious, and I felt sorry for the man who managed the club back into the Football League where others had failed.
They’d made a good start too, with Jake Forster-Caskey’s excellent free kick opening the scoring, but Wayne Brown, controversially selected in goal ahead of Ryan Clarke should have done better as Yado Mambo rose highest at a corner and although his header hit the crossbar, Byron Harrison was first to the rebound and scored from close range.
With less than 10 minutes left of the half, Jim Fenlon cut inside Alfie Potter, and fired home from 25 yards. He was in yards on space which speaks volumes for the defence and goalkeeper. All the while quietly sat in the press area was Steve Claridge. Wearing no club’s badge, there he sat with his assistant. Maybe he was scouting, maybe he was there for other purposes, who knows?
Whatever the truth, United found their way back into the tie. Deane Smalley stabbed home from close range to equalise before losing Wayne Brown to a groin strain a few minutes later. That gave a platform to Ryan Clarke, who didn’t disappoint, producing a quite wonderful diving dave to deny Will Antwi. By then United had taken the lead, as Tom Craddock’s erudite pass found Alfie Potter and he swept home from 10 yards. It proved to be enough for 3 points on the night, but it may well prove to be a pivotal night for Chris Wilder and his regime.
Chris Wilder & Mickey Lewis