Saturday, 29 August 2015

Yeovil Reaction- Dominance

Yeovil were dominated by an imperious Oxford side, who have secured back to back home wins. Danny Hylton and Callum O'Dowda getting themselves on the score sheet for the U's.

FT: Oxford United 2-0 Yeovil Town

Back to back home wins has become a rarity for Oxford over the past few seasons, so you can imagine the jubilant expressions on the fan's faces as they saw Michael Appleton's team achieve just that.

I arrived at the ground, with a packed car park and a sea of retro shirts to reminisce over. Some bloke even had a Steve Anthrobus shirt, which I can only assume was a very drunken purchase. 

As for the football, it was Oxford dominance from the first whistle. To be fair to Yeovil they tried to play a bit rather than sit back and take a point, however we refused to let them play the way they wanted and made them look distinctly average. United's opener was a beautifully worked team goal. Alex MacDonald darted across the box before playing an exquisitely timed ball to Callum O'Dowda who chipped it to Hylton who nodded the ball into the net, the first time this season that Oxford had scored the opening goal. 

The first 20 minutes were laughably one sided with United in complete control of the game and Yeovil unable to muster up any sort of opportunity. Oxford sensed that Yeovil were going to offer very little competition and took their foot off the pedal as a result. However, yet again we were unable to kill the match off early. Providing Yeovil with a chance, albeit a small one, of getting an undeserved equaliser. We went in at the break just the one goal ahead which perhaps was the only criticism that could be made. 

United came out for the second period with vim, vigour, gusto and clearly eager to kill this match off. Callum O'Dowda and Alex MacDonald were causing havoc on both flanks, Yeovil's full backs knew they'd be in for a long afternoon. Despite being firmly in the driving seat, Oxford continued to waste excellent chances to end the contest. O'Dowda, Roofe and Sercombe all guilty of fluffing their lines in front of goal. 

There were clearly a few Oxford fans in the stands who were anxious, including myself, that the missed chances could come back and bite us on the backside. However, Michael Appleton made a tactical adjustment that soon paid dividends. He moved O'Dowda into a central position and not long after the local lad scored the goal that assured Oxford were going to win back to back home games. Hylton made a typical lung busting run into the box before squaring it to O'Dowda who prodded it past Krysiak. Roofe crashed a shot against the bar from 25 yards later on but Oxford were going to have to settle for just two goals, where they really should have got a few more. 

Danny Hylton was different class again. I have no fear in saying he is the best forward in the division. There are plenty of quality strikers in the league like Matt Tubbs, Craig Mackail-Smith and Barry Corr but none can influence a game like Hylton can. A really special player. We are also seeing O'Dowda's potential rapidly develop every week, which is getting Oxford fans giddy. Danny Rose was another player that impressed this afternoon but so many of the lads put a good shift in. Although, Pat Hoban did his best impression of a Sunday League striker with a hangover when he came on. 

So, we have another superb home performance to mull over. It feels a bit strange. I'm not going to complain though because this terrific unbeaten start to the new campaign has put us right up there. It is early days but we have certainly built very solid foundations. Bring on Bristol Rovers next week, hopefully we can end our torrid run of shocking results when the game is on telly. I am confident we can! COYY!

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Sheffield Wednesday Reaction- U's Bow Out Of Cup

Oxford United have been eliminated from the Capital One Cup after a narrow 1-0 defeat to Championship side Sheffield Wednesday last night.

FT: Sheffield Wednesday 1-0 Oxford United

Focus on the league? We weren't bothered about the cup? We can all try and put a positive spin on last night's defeat but it is tough to the hide the indisputable frustration. 

It wasn't a poor performance from Oxford, just a bit flat at times. Something that you wouldn't expect in this sort of cup game. You would expect our players to be fired up at the opportunity to test themselves against a Championship team at a huge stadium, something that wasn't shown by many. Sheffield Wednesday were controlling the possession in the early stages but failed to take advantage of their imperious start. Carlos Carvalhal's team started to become more and more frustrated as their dominance continued to come to nothing. Chey Dunkley, who had been brought back into the starting XI, didn't seem to have too many issues dealing with Sheffield Wednesday's big striker Atdhe Nuhiu. Sam Long made a tremendous challenge on 33 minutes to deny Wednesday a certain goal, it was a decent start to the game from the young defender who hadn't played for a little while. Unfortunately his evening was cut short when he picked up a nasty looking injury on 42 minutes, while launching himself into another gutsy tackle. It appeared to be ankle ligament damage, which we hope is less serious than we are all fearing at the moment. United were defending resolutely but the travelling fans were definitely hoping for a bit more vim and vigour in the second period. The introductions of the rested Roofe and Hylton would have provided that but Appleton pragmatically decided to keep them on the bench. 

It was a tight and tense game but the deadlock was broken thanks to a goalkeeping mishap. A floated cross to the far post was flapped at by Slocombe, followed by two blocked shots which somehow found its way to the largely ineffective Nuhiu who bundled it into the back of the net. Oxford yet again conceded a really soft goal to go behind, this is beginning to feel like deja vu. United wasted no time in trying to get back on level terms though as Callum O'Dowda scampered forward, twisted the full back in knots and curled a shot just wide of the far post. It probably would have been a better option to pick out a player waiting in the middle, who would have had a tap in. There were a couple more close shaves for Oxford, including a drilled free kick from Alex MacDonald which flew just inches over the crossbar. Danny Hylton's introduction gave Sheffield Wednesday's backline a lot more to think about but was unable to take the tie to extra time. 

There is no shame in losing to a decent Championship team, even if they did make a few changes. However, I just wanted a bit more from Oxford. A bit more fight and determination to win the game and progress to the next round. When a team is 1-0 down in stoppage time, they are usually desperate and doing everything they can to get an equaliser. I didn't really see that at all and didn't see character they showed at Luton last night. Admittedly, it was only a cup game and it isn't massively important but it would have been nice to see us take it a bit more seriously. Although Appleton's selection was practical and forward-thinking with our league game on Saturday in mind, it was a bit frustrating, especially after making the long trip to Sheffield. The best thing about the night was the wonderful away support from Oxford, non-stop singing throughout the match brought a good atmosphere to a largely empty Hillsborough. Bring on Yeovil on Saturday! COYY!

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Notts County Reaction- O'Dowda Inspires Oxford Comeback

Oxford came back from a goal down to beat Notts County at the Kassam Stadium last night. Callum O'Dowda, Kemar Roofe and Danny Hylton the scorers. 

FULL TIME: Oxford United 3-1 Notts County

It didn't start particularly well for Oxford who were really struggling in the first half an hour, they were letting Notts County move the ball around confidently. The opening goal was yet again an avoidable one, Graham Burke whipped a decent free kick into the box which was easily headed home by the completely unmarked Thierry Audel, who won't score an easier goal this season. We should definitely be practising how to defend set pieces first thing tomorrow morning after conceding that. It is vitally important that we stop conceding these soft goals. 

This game was looking set to be a repeat of a typical Oxford home performance, however things were about to change. Michael Appleton replaced Patrick Hoban, who was having a personal nightmare, with pacy winger Callum O'Dowda on 32 minutes. The results of the tactical shake up were instant. Liam Sercombe made a powerful run from midfield and produced a cross that was narrowly too high for Hylton, but perfect for O'Dowda. He took the ball down, before precisely placing the ball past a powerless Roy Carroll. Oxford had restored parity and had the momentum going into the half time break. 

Notts County offered very little in the second half, O'Dowda's leveller had clearly taken the wind out of their sails. A few unlucky Oxford supporters still hadn't taken their seats by the time we scored a second. O'Dowda's low ball found its way to a dithering defender, who was robbed by Roofe who expertly swivelled and shot into the top corner. Only one team was going to win this game now, get ready for an Oxford onslaught. Unfortunately chance after chance went begging for the U's. Danny Hylton was having the game of his life and made a lung busting run into the box on 56 minutes, only for Aborah to barge him to the ground. The referee had no hesitation in pointing to the penalty spot. Notts County's players were outraged with the decision and swarmed the referee, desperate for him to change his mind. However the decision stood and new penalty taker Alex MacDonald stood up. The ground fell silent as he struck the ball towards goal, only for Carroll to palm it away. The strike was a good height for the goalkeeper and didn't have enough power behind it, maybe we should hand penalty taking duties back to Danny Hylton. 

The penalty miss didn't knock our confidence though with our attacking players continuing to pour forward. It looked like it might get embarrassing for Notts County but we continued to fluff our lines in front of goal. Kemar Roofe guilty of missing two simple chances. He raced clear and was through on goal but couldn't beat Carroll and a few minutes later ballooned a header over the bar from a few yards out with the goalkeeper stranded. It definitely felt like those missed chances were going to come back and haunt us. However, the dazzling Danny Hylton made sure that a first win was on the board for Oxford United with 11 minutes to go. He sprinted all the way from the centre circle into the penalty area before firing a shot straight at Roy Carroll. However Hylton kept on going and on the rebound fired the ball into the net, sending the fans and Hylton himself into a frenzy. A wonderful moment.

It was a fantastic performance from Oxford, something that has rarely been said after playing at the Kassam in recent years. Hopefully this is a sign of our home fortunes starting to change. We had so many stand out performers in this game although there are only two possible candidates for the Man of the Match award, Callum O'Dowda and Danny Hylton. I am going to give it to Danny Hylton simply because his work rate was unbelievable. If there is an award for 'looking knackered but isn't' then Danny Hylton would win it every time. Despite O'Dowda not winning this weeks Man of the Match award, he was utterly joyous to watch. An exciting, old fashioned winger who wants to beat full backs and put crosses into the box. When he gets the ball the whole crowd leans forward because we know something is going to happen. A star in the making. 

We need to work on our finishing but I really can't complain because if we play like that every week there is only one place we are going and that is League One. Bring on Mansfield!

(By the way, a few people have disagreed with some stuff I've been saying on this blog recently. I just want to say to you guys that this blog is opinion-based and I am wrong sometimes. Sorry.) 

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Luton Reaction- SCENES!

Oxford United produced an astonishing comeback to earn themselves an unlikely point at Kenilworth Road, Patrick Hoban getting Oxford's equaliser.

FT: Luton Town 2-2 Oxford United

"You might as well go home" cried the Luton Town fans with just 10 minutes to go. It looked as if they might have a point with the Hatters leading 2-0, however something I have learnt since becoming an Oxford fan in 2006 is never EVER leave a game early. Anything can happen. 

Luton certainly started the game better, new signing Paddy McCourt found it easy to cut through our defence and Mackail-Smith looked dangerous up front. We were all at sea for the early stages, with Luton also controversially having a goal ruled out. Craig Mackail-Smith brilliantly smashing the ball into the top corner, only for him to realise that the linesman had put his flag up. It didn't look offside and it wouldn't surprise me if those officials had got it wrong. We got ourselves back into the game in the latter stages of the first half but were still failing to create any clear cut chances. Despite Oxford starting to regain some possession, it was Luton who got their noses in front. A poorly defended corner was headed home by lumbering centre back Luke Wilkinson. It was a very disappointing goal to concede and one that will frustrate manager Michael Appleton. Taylor was yet again failing to make any impact up front, I'm sure Steve McNulty will find Ryan Taylor while checking his pockets before he puts his shorts in the washing machine tonighy. Taylor needs to improve quickly. 

Luton took their foot off the gas in the second half, allowing Oxford to see a lot more of the ball. However, we were still lacking the spark needed in the final third. We were dominating and in full control of the game, however completely against the run of play Luton managed to double their advantage. We totally switched off again, allowing Cameron McGeehan to beat Slocombe, make a mockery of our centre halves and put Luton Town two goals in front. It was a gut wrenching moment for Oxford, who now had a big mountain to climb. It now looked like the game was dead and the 3 points were staying in Luton. However, anyone that thought that couldn't be more wrong. Oxford fans were in for a pulsating final 8 minutes of this Kenilworth Road clash. Kemar Roofe's deflected strike drifted into the corner past a helpless Mark Tyler and suddenly there was hope. United threw everything and the kitchen sink at Luton in the dying embers of the match but it looked as if they were going to hang on, however Irish centre forward Patrick Hoban had other ideas. Callum O'Dowda comfortably skinned the full back before floating a cross into the box which Tyler flapped at, giving Mullins the chance to flick it on to Hoban who prodded it into the empty net, despite trying his best to miss it. It was a head in hands moment for Luton but a joyful, pumping fist in the air moment for the 800 travelling Oxford supporters. I haven't seen such pandemonium and delirium since Nicky Wroe scored a screamer against Wycombe in 2014, another special moment. 

I think Luton probably deserved to win the game but their negative tactics late on backfired and they only have themselves to blame for that. I have no doubts that Luton will be up there at the end of the season and we might look back at this game in a few months and realise that it was a fantastic point. Bring on Notts County on Tuesday night!

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Brentford Reaction- Yellows Batter Embarrassing Bees

Against all the odds, Oxford United secured a resounding 4-0 win against Championship side Brentford on a memorable night at Griffin Park.

FT: Brentford 0-4 Oxford United

"We desperately need a goalscorer". I look a complete idiot right now....AND I DON'T CARE! WHAT A RESULT LADS!!!

On the drive into Brentford, I felt an overwhelming sense of trepidation. Don't get me wrong, I was excited for the inevitably electric atmosphere waiting for me in the away end. However, I could see us getting taken apart by a Brentford side that were so close to achieving a remarkable promotion to the top flight last season. I couldn't have been more wrong. My emotions completely changed when the team news came in and it was announced that Brentford had made ELEVEN changes. Those changes obviously affected the team cohesion, they looked like a bunch of strangers on the pitch.

The game started really brightly for Oxford, we clearly came out with the intent to win and not sit back. Marinus Dijkhuiznen's team didn't know what hit them when Liam Sercombe's cracking strike flew past Bonham to give Oxford a shock lead at Griffin Park. The shell-shocked Bees crumbled in front of our eyes as some comical defending lead to United's second goal. Below par goalkeeper Jack Bonham booted the ball straight at Danny Hylton, which cannoned off the Oxford striker and into the bottom corner. The delirious Oxford supporters were rubbing their eyes in disbelief. It was about to get much better though. Bonham, again at fault, came racing out of his goal like a headless chicken and gifted the ball to Roofe who lobbed him deliciously from 45 yards. You will have to go a long way to find a better goal than that tonight. United went in at the break leading 3-0. It would take a ridiculous turn of events for Oxford to chuck this away. It couldn't happen, surely?

Oxford impressively managed to keep the performance going, with the introduction of O'Dowda proving to be a cunning move from the Oxford manager. His fresh legs tore a tiring O'Connell to shreds. The U's converted a much deserved fourth goal on 54 minutes through centre back Johnny Mullins, Bonham again left helpless. United ended up with four but quite frankly, Brentford couldn't have complained if we had put 7 or 8 past them. It really was that easy. 

There is no doubt that Brentford underestimated us and disrespected the competition with their team selection. It was nothing short of an insult to not even name a full substitutes bench, if you come into a game with that attitude then you deserve to lose as far as I'm concerned. I am not over exaggerating when I say this but Brentford were probably the worst team I have seen since the non-league days. A display bereft of commitment, passion and leadership. However, we played magnificently with Rose, Hylton, Roofe and Baldock standing out for the Yellows. Michael Appleton's job now is to keep the players calm and level headed for the big game at Luton on Saturday. A job that will be not be easy. 

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Crawley Reaction- Underwhelming Opener

Oxford United secured an opening day point against recently relegated Crawley Town, Danny Hylton the scorer for United.

FT: Oxford United 1-1 Crawley Town 
Crawley were too defensive, goalkeeper was time wasting, referee was terrible and it was too hot. So much for a 'no excuse environment'.

It was certainly an underwhelming and understated performance from Oxford United. It took an age for the game to spark into the life. Oxford controlled the possession for the opening 20 minutes but failed to forge any clear cut opportunities. It quickly became evident that Jon Ashton and Sonny Bradley weren't going to be in for a tough afternoon, with Taylor and Hylton not stamping an immediate impact on the match. 

It is very possible that Michael Appleton has been taking tactical advice from Big Sam, with Oxford United constantly hoofing the ball forward towards Ryan Taylor, who was dominated in the majority of aerial battles. Kemar Roofe threatened early on and his low effort on 30 minutes was one of the few shots on target to report in the first half. Crawley could count themselves lucky that they kept 11 men on the pitch, with a shocking tackle from Simon Walton only warranting a yellow card in the opinion of the man in black. My initial reaction was that he should have taken an early bath. 

Oxford made no changes at half time which may have been a mistake from Michael Appleton. I think the introduction of Callum O'Dowda at the break would have created the spark in the final third that we were all crying out for. Crawley Town didn't seem to be offering much to the game but out of no where took the lead on 57 minutes. Mark Yates' team took full advantage of some lacklustre U's defending, with Gwion Edwards nodding the ball past a helpless Sam Slocombe. This cued the whole Oxford fanbase to at once groan "here we go again". It also inspired Appleton into a change, dragging off the ineffective Taylor and chucking on the fresh legs of Patrick Hoban. It may have made the difference because it wasn't long before Oxford got themselves on level terms. A ball over the top from Rose found its way to Hylton who drove it past Woodman into the corner from a tricky angle. A super goal from Mr Reliable. 

It wasn't a terrible performance from Oxford, I have seen much worse. My main concern is that we don't appear to have learnt much from last season. I saw endless performances that were practically carbon copies of what we saw this afternoon. Oxford losing concentration leading to a goal for the opposition and then Danny Hylton getting us out of trouble. Sound familiar? I thought so. We seem to lack a major goal threat at the top of the pitch, I just can't see Taylor and Hoban getting many goals this season. I think we are going to have to heavily rely on Hylton and Roofe again. We desperately need a goalscorer before the transfer window slams shut or else we'll struggle to get promotion. Before you go home Crawley, is Izale McLeod still available?