Saturday 2nd March 2013 ko 15.00
OXFORD UNITED 2 (Potter 10 Smalley 76)
PORT VALE 1 (Loft 16)
Att 6,322 (865 away)
Programme £3 (inc Oxford Mail)
This was the game that proved, if such a thing were needed, that I clearly know nothing about football! As ever I drove to the ground, buoyed somewhat by the unlikely away win at top-of-the-table Gillingham. That had come about due to a change in tactics, from a pretty but often ineffectual passing game, to a horrible niggly, but direct style. That saw a recall for Deane Smalley as a one man attack. He doesn’t score enough goals, but if you don’t concede you only need one yourself! Chris Wilder has set his stall out on the passing game, so I expected a home game to produce a return to the usual style, and as ever I was wrong. Similar line-up, same tactics, but here’s the thing; not only did it work, and well, Oxford actually played good positive attractive football, and beat the side second in the table! 6 points from games against the top 2 on League 2 is as welcome as it’s surprising.
The goals came from 2 players who frankly loked like they couldn’t buy a goal. Alfie Potter’s been passing to avoid shooting, his confidence shot, so his lofted finish following former OUFC defender Darren Purse’s suicidal backpass, was as welcome as was Smalley’s goal later on. That was a touch an shot from 6 yards following a sublime layoff from Andy Whing. His introduction was the one controversial moment of the game. Yes, Adam Chapman had a dreadful first half and needed replacing at half time. To withdraw him during first half stoppage time served little purpose other than to destroy his confidence. That commodity still looks fragile despite the two excellent results. The other notably point was allowing Sean Rigg to take the penalty. Yes, a former Vale player would love to score against his old club, but that is also a club that knows him well. Clearly with regular penalty man Peter Leven out for the time being a stand-in needs to be found.
Tuesday sees Rotherham as the visitors, another good side. It also means the antics of manager Steve Evans will be much to the fore. Still, he does give me plenty to write about!