Following the 3-0 defeat to Rochdale last week, Oxford United really needed to get back to winning ways against a very good Brewers side who had leap-frogged the Us into 4th place in the race for promotion. With Bury and Rochdale only managing a draw the night before, a good result would really open up the race for automatic.
Oxford United vs Burton Albion (8/03/14)
On a sunny afternoon at the Kassam Stadium, the Us welcomed the Brewers who, in the last match, had moved up a place and a point above Oxford. Oxford lined up with two changes from the defeat at Spotland – Newey coming in for Raynes and Beano in place of Potter.
Burton started the sharper of the two teams as Oxford looked quite sluggish, leaving far too many gaps. The Oxford back line of Hunt, Wright, Mullins and Newey have been a very tight unit recently – helping Clarkey to player of the month – but Burton caused us problems throughout the first half. I was very impressed by their use of the full width of the pitch.
The Brewers got the breakthrough through Dominic Knowles on 10 minutes with some outrageous pinpoint passing that was pleasing on the eye. One-nil.
Ryan Williams was by far our best player on the pitch. That boy has got so much skill and flair, he was our most creative player until Connolly came on to replace David Kitson who just didn’t look fit. In the 26th minute the Us went further behind through Zeli Ismail, who is a Molineux youth graduate. Ryan Clarke saved the initial shot from Jimmy Philips but Ismail was on hand to roll the ball into the back of the net.
There would be yet more drama in this first half as David Hunt fouled a Burton player in the box. Billy Kee put the ball down on the penalty spot and Ryan Clarke saved his weak effort down to his right. What a legend!!
Half time. Oxford 0 Burton Albion 2. Did the fans think it was going to be a huge task for United to get back into the game?
In the second half Oxford were much brighter and had much of the possession. Deane Smalley tried an overhead kick that just went wide. Ryan Williams was having a good game and when David Connolly connected with a through ball, Williams showed great skill to reduce the two-goal deficit. James Constable had an effort that rattled the post which would have drawn the game level, but it wasn’t to be.
Whatever the management team said to the players at half time it certainly worked, but on this occasion the first half an hour of the game cost us a point or even all three.
We entertain Cheltenham on Tuesday night, will we come out all guns blazing? I do hope so.
Last week the club received some great news in the form of two long term absentees in Andrew Whing and Jonathan Meades being given the green light to resume first team training. Meades got injured in a pre-season friendly when he went down innocuously near the half way line. I remember that when he went down the stadium went very quiet – you could have heard a pin drop. I am so excited to watch Meades play and hope he starts a game soon. I rate Whing highly too and have missed his physical prowess. He’s a very gifted player.
Unfortunately in the week they were informed that a reserve team game that they were going to play in was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch. That news must have been a sucker-punch to both the lads who have missed most of the season. At least they can’t be too far away.
Come on you mighty yellows!