Saturday 14th April 2012 ko 3.00pm
OXFORD UNITED 0
Att 7,322 (641 away)
Programme £3 (inc Ox Mail)
At the end of my last Oxford United match report, I pondered whether U’s keeper Ryan Clarke would have got to the lob that gave Torquay a point on Monday, if he hadn’t been injured. Wayne Brown’s first league appearance of the season tells me that he probably would. Such is football.
This game meant a lot to both sides, United to stay in the play-off zone as they were equal on points with Crewe who were away at relegation haunted Macclesfield. For Gillingham a win was necessary to maintain a realistic hope of sneaking into the 7th spot held by United.
Unsurprisingly for United, Harry Worley made way for Michael Duberry returning from suspension, and equally logically Scott Rendell replaced James Constable in the starting line-up. The enigma that is Dean Morgan kept his place, on the left side of attack in a 4-4-3 formation.
And virtually every OUFC attack in that first half came from through balls behind Gills left back Andy Frampton, clearly deemed slow enough for Cristano Montano to beat for pace. The trouble was OUFC’s Achilles heel was also very much on show, inability to put the ball away. There were no lack of chances at either end as Liam Davis’ fine flying block prevented Danny Kedwell taking the lead for the visitors, while Gills keeper Paulo Gazzaniga’s spectacular save kept out Asa Hall’s volley. The rebound fell kindly to Morgan, but Connor Essam’s block was the equal of Davis’ before.
There was a exchange of bookings for Oxford’s Jake Wright and Kedwell as things got a little feisty, but at half time the score reflected the fact that neither side could get the upper hand.
Nothing tactical changed form the start of the second half. Again Hall was unlucky not to be on the score sheet, as his goal bound volley was somehow headed off the line by Matt Fish. Pace was replaced by pace as Montano was switched for Oli Johnson, and one target man for another with Rendell being replaced by James Constable. It was Constable’s cross for Johnson that saw the latter’s shot again headed off the line by Essam.
The final chance saw Johnson go down in the box under a stiff challenge. Was it a penalty? I’ve seen plenty like that given, but for me he went down a little too theatrically, which may be why linesman Robert Ellis did not flag, and Johnson was booked for diving.
A game that United on another day would have one with Asa Hall getting a brace, but with Crewe only getting a point too, is as you were Cedric. Next Saturday its Oxford’s turn to visit a relegation threatened side, Plymouth Argyle.