Saturday 10th November 2012 ko 15.00
OXFORD UNITED 0
TORQUAY UNITED 0
Att 5,773 (259 away)
Programme £3 (inc Oxford Mail) £3
Now, I’m not a gambling man, the whole bookie experience leaves me cold, but consider if you will the two team’s build-ups to this game. Torquay lost to non-league Harrogate Town in the FA Cup, while Oxford beat Barnet convincingly. During last week Oxford lost at home to Dagenham & Redbridge, while Torquay lost away at…. Barnet. Up on the top deck, before kick-off we considered the likely outcome on a cold afternoon. A few scratched heads, then a grin, and the comment, “Nil-nil it’ll be then!”
Three changes for United, all logical with Alfie Potter still out with a sore hamstring. Johnny Mullins replaced Michael Raynes in central defence, Liam Davis replaced Tony Capaldi at left back, and Simon Heslop was considered a “least worst” option in right midfield than Adam Chapman. The lack of an out-and-out right-winger was an obvious deficiency on Tuesday and while Heslop was a better bet than Chapman, the position continued to look like a square peg in a round hole. For Torquay the principle concern was in goal, regular keeper Michael Poke having a groin strain meant subsitute keeper Martin Rice playing his first game of 2012. That produced an unusual kit-clash, his day glo-orange shirt and shorts being the same colour as that worn by the stadium’s stewards!
The first half was a non-event, Oxford trying their best, but with a lack of conviction where it mattered, in the finishing off of chances. Torquay were more than happy to defend and live off scraps, Billy Bodin’s 20 yard effort being the most memorable, but that should be set against 2 James Constable efforts, one blasted over, the other well saved, and Sean Rigg’s header straight at the keeper.
Things looked worse after the break with Tom Craddock’s sore ribs precluding further participation. The loss of United’s form striker wasn’t keenly felt, as his replacement Jon-Paul Pittman had a fine 45 minutes, stretching the Gulls defence with runs pulling the centre halves out of the channels. United looked far more incisive, but again the final shot wasn’t quite there. Constable fired over, and Rigg had two shots saved, but there was a fright after 50 minutes when Ryan Jarvis headed home for Torquay but the effort was ruled offside.
But the United chances kept coming and kept being missed. Constable did the difficult thing, turning his marker beautifully, but failed with the simpler task, firing over from 10 yards out. There was and is an anxiety about the forward line, the chances get created, but things conspire to see them missed.
Squirrelled away in the warm at the back of the stand was a chap in a club’s coat. My sister didn’t recognise the badge when we spotted him cuddling his tea at half time. I did, the badge was Chesterfield’s and with Oxford playing there next Saturday I doubt if the report he sends back to Derbyshire will contain much that will worry the Spireites. But then what, if anything can you correctly predict at the moment where Oxford United is concerned?