The only thing I’m worried about before this game is overconfidence as, like most people, I’m expecting us to win comfortably this afternoon. We’ve been banging goals in from all quarters and if Wyke comes on off the bench, as is looking likely, I’m sure we’ll get at least a couple more today. Ozturk may well start as Loovens was looking a bit of a doubt and though he certainly lacks finesse, he does add some beef at the back and as we saw last Saturday, that’s a useful quality in this league. I’ll be at the match and I reckon we’ll have another 30,000 plus crowd. Match prediction: 3-1 to us.
There was no trouble getting through the turnstiles and I was in my seat right on the centre-line in the East Stand ten minutes before kick-off. As expected, Ozturk was starting and so was Oviedo. From the very off it was clear this wasn’t going to be easy as Oxford looked more speedy and purposeful than we did and they could outmuscle us too. Our passes were often going astray and the surprisingly large contingent of Oxford fans were soon chanting, “Is this a library?” We clearly had the jitters and we hardly got the ball into their half in the opening quarter of an hour. We were already 2-0 up on yellow cards with both Maguire and Catts getting one and the next thing we were one down where it really hurt. We conceded a free-kick just outside our box and Holmes hit a great shot that McLaughlin couldn’t keep out. Things soon went from bad to worse when Power received a straight red for a bad tackle just inside our half. There was a bit of afters with the Oxford bench too as he was about to go down the tunnel. All in all, a shite start. We got a bit better after that with Oviedo and Maguire making some nifty moves down the left but I don’t think we had a shot on target in the first half. A chant of, “You’re not fit to referee” directed at Mark Heywood seemed not unreasonable as several Oxford players were dishing out the rough stuff but went unpunished. Maguire was living dangerously having already been booked and we certainly couldn’t afford to go down to nine men.
When we kicked off again Wyke was on for his debut and Maguire, predictably, was nowhere to be seen. It didn’t take long for Wyke to make his mark as seven minutes in he flicked a pass/shot from Gooch into the corner to put us level. We played a lot better in the second-half, creating good shooting chances for Catts, Gooch and Maja, but were still below par while Oxford weren’t giving much at all away and continued to look dangerous on the break. McGeouch replaced Maja with just less than twenty minutes on the clock and he played well again. Just after that substitution Oxford had the ball in our net but it was ruled out, for offside I think. Not only did Oxford start to catch us up in the yellow-card stakes but they began to look much more dominant than us for a good while. Love was booked too and was soon replaced by James. There were four minutes of stoppage-time but instead of us snatching a winner, Oxford looked more likely to nick one with a shot being cleared off our line and a good McLaughlin save keeping it to 1-1. There was a lot of applause at the whistle and a good deal of booing for Mr Heywood.
1-1 sounds a disappointing result but if you’d offered me it at 3.20, I’d have bitten your hand off as we were a goal behind, down to ten men and playing badly. So, once again we’ve demonstrated that we can fight back to get a result but we clearly need to work on not falling behind in the early stages.