Thursday, 26 November 2015

Why Chris Maguire Is A Great Signing

Oxford United have confirmed the signing of Rotherham United forward Chris Maguire. 

He can bring goals to a side with below par finishing
Numbers and graphs can never prove anything but this is quite interesting. Oxford are very low in the 'percentage of shots scored' table, pretty much meaning that we are wasteful in front of goal. Thankfully, we create a lot of chances so it doesn't matter as much but think about the position in the league we'd be in if that percentage was higher. We miss far too many chances, that cause for us to draw or lose games that we should have won. It's not a huge deal at the moment with us sitting 2nd in the league but something needed to be done about it to stop it becoming a problem, whether that be extra shooting practice or a new striker. I'm pleased Michael Appleton has opted for the latter. 

He's a player that brings experience from higher divisions at plenty of Championship clubs and someone who can start converting more of our chances. If he gets off the mark quickly and starts banging in the goals, he can be the difference between play-offs and automatic promotion for Oxford this season.

Good work ethic
He has been heavily praised in the past for this terrific work ethic on the training pitch. During his stint at Derby County, first team coach Andy Garner expressed his delight at his great attitude and his willingness to work his way into the team when he was left on the bench. This is an attitude that all of the players in our current squad possess, so will fit in perfectly. Michael Appleton himself heaped praise on him, during Maguire's loan spell with Portsmouth in 2012.

Can play more than one position
Chris Maguire has shown over the years that he doesn't limit himself to just one position, he can comfortably play in several. His best position is up front at the top of the pitch but can play just behind a number 9 in a number 10 role and also do a job out wide as well.

Can score goals like this...

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Braintree Reaction- Blown Away

On a windy evening at the Kassam Stadium, United knocked out a brave Braintree team to earn themselves a second round tie against Forest Green Rovers.

FULL TIME: Oxford 3-1 Braintree

Pre-Match Thoughts
As soon as I saw the windy weather forecast for last night, I knew this game would become much tougher than it appeared on paper. As expected, the winds howled as I strode into the Kassam Stadium, making it a troublesome task to actually stay standing up. 

It was good to see Michael Appleton show Braintree Town a lot of respect by fielding a strong side including players that many assumed would be rested such as George Baldock, Kemar Roofe and Liam Sercombe. I was a bit disappointed not to see Cameron Gayle in the team last night, although mainly for the missed headline opportunities.

The Match
It became apparent in the early stages that this was going to be a farce of a game. The heavy winds refused to die down, making it a game of how to beat the wind rather than how to beat Braintree.

United had a lot of the ball but were failing to make it count. George Baldock and Callum O'Dowda looked threatening on the right but were unable to create any clear cut chances as a well organised Braintree stood firm. Alex MacDonald's thunderbolt free kick which cannoned off the crossbar, was the closet either team came to breaking the deadlock in the opening half hour. 

Despite the lack of chances United seemed comfortable, until a moment of lunacy from Skarz gifted Braintree a chance to open the scoring from the spot. Michael Cheek waltzed into the box unopposed until Skarz clumsily knocked him to the floor, giving the referee no choice but to point to the spot. The calm and collected Kenny Davis confidently slotted it into the net to give the underdogs the lead on 33 minutes.

The impressive thing about United this season though is their tendency to keep calm and not panic and yet again they weren't fazed by a moment of disappointment as they came back fighting. On 42 minutes, George Baldock looped a ball over the top to the rampant Sercombe who hammered it home to level things up. That is Liam Sercombe's ninth goal of the season in all competitions, an amazing feet for a midfield player who only got 23 in eight years at Exeter. 

Sercombe's strike clearly gave Oxford the confidence boost they needed as they came out for the second half much more like their usual selves. In particular Roofe who looked like a man on a mission after the break and the wing wizard managed to magic up a second goal on 64 minutes. Roofe darted into the box at pace, leaving two defenders in his dust before pulling it back to the grateful Hoban who prodded it in.  

It turned into a proper cup tie, with Braintree refusing to go down without a fight but United's fitness levels began to show and it wasn't long before we wrapped it up. Kemar Roofe, again the catalyst of United's attacking threat, dinked the ball to O'Dowda who was barged to the floor, resulting in another penalty which Hoban dispatched. I, much like everyone else in the ground, was convinced it was a penalty at the time. However after having looked at the highlights this morning, I'm now not so sure. 

There was even more time for a whistle-happy ref to award another soft penalty, however this time to the visitors. Braintree's Sean Marks, who had received a mere nudge in the back, went down like he'd been shot and another penalty was given. However justice prevailed as Kenny Davis' poor penalty was easily stopped by Buchel. 

Post-Match Thoughts
I can sum it up in two words. Job done.

The best player on park was George Baldock. He was a constant threat from the first minute and Braintree will be glad to see the back of him. Honourable mentions also go to Kemar Roofe and Callum O'Dowda who really upped their game after the break.  

Pat Hoban got two goals so I have to congratulate for that but I still think he's got a hell of a lot to prove. People forget that he offered no threat at all in the first half and missed a few good chances in the second. The thing I find most baffling is that people who didn't go the game last night were gutted not to see Hoban score, like it’s some sort of annual must-see event. Is it just me that thinks our centre forward scoring goals should be a regular occurrence? 

I now look forward to the second round against Forest Green, which provides an intriguing
match-up between of the best two teams in League Two and one of the best two teams in the Conference.