Saturday 9th February 2013 ko 15.00
OXFORD UNITED 0
BRISTOL ROVERS 2 (Brown 56p Richards 90)
Att 7,608 (1,932 away)
Programme (including Oxford Mail) £3
Today a friend of mine sent me a text message. He’s just bought a book, ” Oxford United Who’s Who,” and remarked just how many poor players the club have employed over recent years. I’m not convinced how many of the current crop will be remembered with any fondness. Before kick-off I spotted Simon Heslop glumly looking out from the press box. He must have thought, “How could I fail to get into this squad?” Indeed Simon, indeed!
With the news that the creative midfielder Peter Leven is out injured for the long-term, and that a string of players were signed without undertaking medicals, there was pessimistic feel about the ground. It proved to be well founded as not only did Oxford look unlikely to score, but in an attempt to counteract the dreadful pitch, the tactic was to thump the ball in the direction of Justin Richards, but James Constable doesn’t deal in knock-downs, and with a 4-3-3 formation looking narrow the first half was non-event.
Oxford’s one player who looks worth a transfer fee is Jake Wright, yet it was his sliding challenge on Ryan Brunt that irrevokably swung the tie in the Gas’s favour. It looked a clean challenge from my seat, but few complained, as the retaken spot-kick easily beat the Oxford United keeper.
So with the clock running down, how do you change things? Put the out-of-favour striker Deane Smalley on? Or put the out of favour centre-half Harry Worley on? When Worley joined the forward line, it didn’t take a psychic to imagine what Smalley was thinking. I wonder whether another loan out can be found for him, his stay at Oxford United clearly hasn’t worked out.
The tremendous away followimg masked another poor attendance, and that figleaf won’t be there on Tuesday night, when Fleetwood are the visitors. Will there be a short-term replacement for Leven? Will there be a 20 goal a season striker to replace Craddock? Somehow I doubt it.