This new season seems to have come round very rapidly and I can't say I'm at all revved up about it yet. As I walk over the bridge among a crowd of fans in a couple of hours' time I'm hoping the ancestral feelings will kick in. There'll be the usual start of season problem of wondering who is who as the new players settle in. I was pleased we've moved Cats and Oviedo on as it was a case of financial necessity and I didn't have any strong feelings either way about Honeyman. I imagine Leadbitter will be captain if that hasn't already been decided but I reckon Power could fill the role well too. Pre-season friendlies aren't much of an indication but we did okay against higher level foreign opposition though the lack of goals did give cause for concern, the Hartlepool match excepted. Anyway, I've got to be positive at this point so my match prediction is a 2-1 win.
I got into the ground very early at 2.20 as I didn't have my usual pre-match slurp in Fitzie's and there was a good ripple from those already in their seats as the Lads came out for the warm-up. I decided to have a wander around the concourse downstairs which is a thing I'd never done before for some reason. Well, compared to most grounds I've been to we're very well served in the bar-takeaway department. My seat was right on the centre line in the upper East Stand and there looked to be well over a thousand Oxford fans present as you would expect on the sunny first day of the season. Our starting eleven was very different from that of the last game I saw at Wembley and included new boys C. McLaughlin, Dobson, Wallis and McNulty as well as Embleton and Hume. The pitch was looking beautiful. So far, so okay.
We were lucky to escape in the fifth minute when slack defending allowed Oxford to exchange a one-two on the edge of our box before Fosu shot wide of the left hand post. We did better two minutes later when a great McNulty shot was palmed out for the first corner of the match. We went behind in the fourteenth minute when again sloppy defending allowed Oxford to break from the middle of our half and this time Fosu made no mistake and McLaughlin had very little chance with his shot. We won a second corner a few minutes later following a free-kick as a few Oxford fans attempted a chant of, “Is this a library?” It came to nothing and there were sounds of frustration from our fans. By the midway point Oxford were passing it around confidently and didn't look troubled. They certainly weren't in any hurry. We were creating some decent moves but as so often the final pass went astray or the connection just wasn't there. We had nobody big in their box to get a decent header in. Oxford won a couple of corners just before the half-hour mark, the second of which was headed into the net but the ref immediately blew for a foul, though it took a few Oxford players a while to realize that. We were leaving Oxford far too much space down the left side of our defence and it felt that sooner or later they'd get a second. As half-time approached our performance was well in the doldrums and we needed to freshen things up. “Getta bitta pace into it! Jesus Christ!,” a guy behind me exclaimed and I fully agreed. Oxford's Woodburn aroused the wrath of many for what looked like play-acting after a tackle. Deep into stoppage-time we won a free-kick right on the edge of their box. Embleton took it and hit their wall. As the whistle went Oxford and their fans must've been well happy but there was some booing from our fans as the sides went off. McGeady was on the bench and we needed a shot of him.
As we kicked off again we were of course only one goal behind but it felt worse than that. Three minutes in, though, we were handed a lifeline when Gooch went down in their box and we were awarded a penalty. It looked very soft but nobody was arguing and Gooch promptly put the kick away and we were level. Our fans started chanting again and the side looked revitalized. Oxford were by no means settling for a draw and McLaughlin made two great saves shortly before the hour-mark to keep us level. We made our first substitution just after that when we replaced Embleton with Watmore and that went down very well. Gorrin was booked for a foul on Watmore who was certainly putting himself about. McLaughlin gave away a needless corner when he was put under pressure but we got away with it. I felt there was definitely another goal in the game but it could go either way. Gooch was booked after a spot of handbags when he conceded a foul for a high boot. With twenty minutes left McGeady replaced Grigg to much joy all round. We created a number of decent chances with a couple of low crosses rolling tantalizingly through their box but couldn't convert any of them. “We're heading towards our favourite scoreline,” a bloke behind me said but with ten minutes plus stoppage-time I was still dreaming of us nicking it. My hopes were encouraged when we promptly brought on Maguire for Gooch. The crowd was announced and I was surprised that is was over 33,000. Flanagan was down injured for a while, but recovered thankfully, and it looked like there'd be five minutes or so of stoppage-time. With less than two minutes to go we won a free-kick right on the edge of their box and it was very McGeadyable.
McGeady hit the wall but immediately won another free-kick at the edge of their box, which came to nothing. The expected five minutes were announced but we couldn't get that goal and it ended 1-1 to a good deal of booing.
Plus ca change, plus la meme merde.