Saturday 8th September 2012 ko 3.00pm
OXFORD UNITED 2 (Forster-Caskey 54p Potter 63) Constable sent off 81 (2nd booking)
EXETER CITY 4 (Cureton 11 50 Bennett 26 O’Flynn 72)
Att 6,405 (695 away)
Programme £3 (inc’ Oxford Mail)
The day started with a fond farewell, but no the one it looked like being for the majority of the preceding week. Better-informed folk than I had linked OUFC manager Chirs Wilder with the vacancy at Coventry City, but on matchday nothing had happened, not even an approach, so the goodbye was to goalkeeping coach Alan Hodgkinson. He’s now 76, but the experience gained from playing for England, Sheffield United and Manchester United will be sorely missed.
It was two veterans that undid United, John O’Flynn, and particularly Jamie Cureton. I never did get to the bottom of why Bristol Rovers let Cureton go to Reading for a pittance, all those years ago, but wherever he’s been he’s scored routinely. Today was no exception, as with just 10 minutes gone, the defence let him run at them so he let fly from 20 yards, and the ball flew into the top left hand corner. A stunning strike, but one that should have been never allowed to happen.
It got worse, as the OUFC defence debated a decision to give Exeter a corner. It didn’t look over the line, but the concentration levels had dropped, and Scott Bennett headed home from the corner kick. It wasn’t that United were failing to create chances, it was just when they arrived they weren’t converted. Sean Rigg saw two efforts blocked and Simon Heslop shot wide as United attempted in vain to find a quick reponse.
I expected a change of tactics for the second half, but nothing was altered until Exeter got their 3rd. Michael Raynes will wonder how a 37 year old managed to but nutmeg and outpace him, but the former Norwich man’s finish was superb. In fact the warm applause from the home support as Cureton limped off a few minutes later, was as much a sigh of relief as it was appreciative.
United found a way back into the game when Damian Batt’s run into the box was crudely ended by Craig Woodman, and Jake Forster-Caskey made no mistake from the penalty spot, sending Artur Keysiak the wrong way. When Adam Chapman’s free kick was headed across goal by Jon-Paul Pittman for Alfie Potter to bundle home, there was a sense of belief. That was tempered by a missed header by Deane Smalley that looked easier to bury and blunted completely by Exeter’s other veteran Paul O’Flynn, who beat Jake Wright and fired home across Ryan Clarke.
If that was the door closing on OUFC’s chances, then the dismissal of James Constable was that door being bolted. Only on the pitch for 8 minutes, he picked up a booking for a marginal foul, then a minute later a booking which I couldn’t fathom, but was later put down to “Unsporting conduct,” saw the big man troop off furious, and United’s chances disappeared down the tunnel with him.
So, let’s go back to where we started. Will Chris Wilder go to Coventry? Who knows, but if he doesn’t, will that be because Oxford United want to keep him, or that Coventry aren’t interested? Given the current lack of information coming from Grenoble Road, I reckon we’ll find that one out from the Midlands.