Wednesday 8 December 2004 – League Two – Oxford United 0 Swansea City 1
Oxford Utd: Tardif, Mackay, Robinson, Roget, Ashton, Basham, Wanless (Hackett 85), Quinn, E’Beyer (Brooks 69), Mooney (Davies 75), Bradbury. Subs Not Used: Clarke, Molyneaux.
Sent Off: Ashton (60).
Booked: Robinson, Ashton.
Swansea: Gueret, Ricketts, Austin, Monk, Gurney, Forbes, O’Leary, Martinez, Goodfellow, Nugent (Anderson 78), Trundle (Connor 79). Subs Not Used: Murphy, Tate, Iriekpen.
Booked: Gurney, Monk.
Goals: Goodfellow 61.
Ref: P Danson (Leicestershire).
Here are three match reports from the game:
Match Report – Peter and Bethan Charles
Contrary to some of the comments made about this game, I was genuinely impressed with the Swans last night. True, they didn’t play a great deal of fluent football, and the lack of an instinctive finisher is becoming more apparent by the week; but they did string some good moves together against a physical (if very ordinary) opposition, and they created quite a number of chances (we counted 7 – 1 on the first half alone). For periods they dominated possession, and when they didn’t, they got men behind ball, crunched in with tackles and closed the game out. Not too much to complain about really, and we did deserve the win.
Granted, though, the first half got pretty ragged at times. Our best approach play tended to come through some delightful and incisive passing from Martinez, and some impressive raids down the flank by the ever-improving Sam Ricketts. Forbes and Goodfellow contributed intermittently, but Forbes was certainly getting through plenty of work defensively (a point sometimes overlooked) as well as seeking to get forward. But our foothold in the early stages was mainly gained by the crunching tackles of our centre half pairing and, in particular, Kris O’Leary, who (for the first time in my presence) looked like the impressive midfielder that others have been describing!
One of our best bits of play came from a great cross field pass from Kris, which sent Goodfellow through to crash a fine effort just over the bar; and just before half time, O’Leary himself sent a swirling volley just wide with the keeper beaten. Priori to that, some determined twisting and turning from Trundle had seen him create several half chances for himself, all of which went begging tonight. The best chance for Lee came from a pin-point through ball from the visionary Martinez, which sent him racing in on goal, only for him to crash his shot against the side netting. Other opportunities came and went, including two left sided crosses which evaded everyone, when a determined finisher would surely have capitalised – for a while it seemed like Stockport all over again!
The only response from Oxford in this half had been several angled crosses, all of which Willy gathered expertly whether under pressure or not, and one fine effort from Tommy Mooney which flashed just wide with Geuret beaten. My text exchanges with Bethan at half time were typically pessimistic – we are dominating…we haven’t scored yet…we will lose 1 – 0 !!!
But fortunately the Swans team is not as soured as we are by years of near-misses and Might-have-beens! They came out for the second half in determined mood, and set about the opposition once again. This said, it was the home side who created the best strike on goal thus far, when a far post header (Mooney I think .. it might as well have been, so characterless was this Oxford side) seem destined for the bottom left hand corner of Willy’s goal. At that moment, most of us thought he’d scored, but Willy managed to produce a save of genuine world-class, tipping the ball away with incredible athleticism. I think Gordon Banks probably had to move just a bit further for his version of this save!
This was a useful kick up the rear, and the Swans continued to dominate possession and make the better opportunities. Again, we created half chances without really looking like we would burst the net – a flurry at a corner was the closest we got in this stage. But the game began to become more stretched and Forbes started to look more threatening with his runs forward. Just on the hour, we got our reward – Forbes burst forward and drew a foul from an Oxford midfielder who had already been booked – he was sent on his way with a second yellow. From the ensuing Martinez free kick, the ball broke to Nugent whose weak header looped to the far post, where Goodfellow was on hand to nod in – a deserved break for us.
In the minutes that followed we could and should have put them away. Trundle, Nugent and Forbes all had pots on goal, but again nothing clinical. The last 20 minutes saw a ten man rallying cry and we gradually dropped deep to defend the lead. Oxford forced some half chances, mainly through innocuous diagonal crosses. But there was nothing to set the heart racing until a slip by Martinez allowed an Oxford player to dance through the heart of the defence and force himself into the clear in a point blank shooting position; but he was thwarted at the last moment by a magnificent points-saving challenge by Ricketts, who somehow managed to make up the twenty yards from left back. The reaction of the Swans players was telling – they reacted to the tackle like it was goal, heartily congratulating Sam on his excellent work.
The last 10 minutes were nervy, but Kris kept the challenges going in, and the rest of them battled hard. It was a good team performance and a well crafted (or maybe grafted) result, which was rapturously received by the 500 + travelling Jacks, who celebrated WITH the team at the final whistle. Player ratings:
Geuret – 9 One flap in the second half prevents the perfect 10
Gurney – 7 some good challenges but sometimes AWOL
Ricketts – 9 Strong in defence and showed real ability getting forward to support the attack; won us two points with the late save
Austin – 7 Strong but hesitant here and there.
Monk – 7 As above. Interesting that our “robust” centre halves seem to be first choice, whilst our footballing centre halves warm the bench. Would a fit Izzy challenge for a place? We could do with some better distribution from the back.
Forbes – 6 Worked hard, but not as effective going forward as he can be
Martinez – 7 Excellent creativity and worked hard. Could have seen a little more from him late on.
O’Leary – 8 Some great challenges, some good disruptive play and (remarkably) some good distribution…long may it continue!
Goodfellow – 6 Did well for the goal and shows some nice skill; looked a little lightweight at times
Trundle – 7 Some great creative play, but they are just not going in for him at the moment
Nugent – 5 Didn’t really get into the game
Connor and Anderson came on late on to short things up.
We do still have a centre forward problem. Trundle is a creative striker who needs to be in partnership with a clinical finisher or a strong ball winning centre forward. Neither Nugent nor Connor are really fitting the bill, hence our poor goal scoring record. Scunthorpe will prove much harder than Oxford – of course they will. But we still have to put teams like Oxford away, and the Kassam is a hard place to come to. Credit where it is due for a good all round effort. Roll on Saturday for my 3rd game in 8 days!!! NB Some great support today – mostly positive and rapturous singing (only one SHAP…we should start booing that, you know). A really impressive turn-out on a mid week night.
Match Report – Richard Johnes
Now living between Oxford and Cheltenham, I have only seen 3 games this season, and yet again I leave wondering how on earth we are in the top 3.
As Jeremy said, the first half was a waste of time. We looked like we were playing a training match and an unbelievably lethargic display, especially from Goodfellow. I was looking forward to seeing O’Leary and Martinez boss the midfield as I have read about. I didn’t even notice Martinez in the first quarter. The best bit of the first half was watching the substitute’s half time penalty competition and a bizarre celebration from Tate and Izzy every time they beat Murphy.
The 2nd half was much better; both teams seemed to have received a boot up the rear. Goodfellow remembered he can run and Martinez started spraying the balls around and O’Leary imposed himself. All our best chances came from Martinez’s creativity. I have heard much of Forbes’ ineffective attacking play, but last night he was good, although a bit erratic when taking on players. It was thanks to his pace that Oxford went down to 10 men, possibly a slightly harsh sending off as Forbes ran down the wing, knocking the ball ahead, the oxford no 5 was outdone by pace and Forbes appeared to make sure he ran straight into the hapless defender.
Why oh why is Nugent starting? He has a role to play as he is very effective in the air but has no pace. The general consensus of shouting from around me was that Nugent was the lesser of 2 evils (between Connor and himself). From the sending off we were playing well, keeping the ball, and knocking it around the midfield in pretty triangle passing moves, very text book stuff! Yet we remained completely ineffective in front of goal as we had been all night. Oxford took heart, reorganised, got over the shock and came at us. Finger biting stuff right to the end, we never looked capable of scoring, especially when we went to 4-5-1, a tactic which nearly cost us the game.
In summary: Willy was excellent, as was Ricketts, Gurney is a thug, Tate should have started, Goodfellow is lazy or possibly not match fit, either Thomas is given a chance when he is fit or we need a new striker, Trundle gets marked out of the game, as the defenders don’t have to worry about 2 strikers; I know now why Forbes is in the team instead of Britton, he is an excellent wide player, who never stopped running up and down the pitch.
We were lucky, really lucky tonight. Thank goodness I don’t have to go through that every game. Play like that and Scunthorpe will exploit those weaknesses.
Match Report – Jeremy Kivell
That was far harder than it should have been. Despite being 1-0 up against 10 men, I was nervously looking at my watch for the last 15 minutes, plus the mysterious 4 minutes of injury time.
On tonight’s evidence, Oxford’s league position isn’t a false one.
They took half an hour to muster an effort on goal, and ended up looking a better team with 10 men than they had with 11.
Gary Monk was preferred to Alan Tate at the back, while Kevin Nugent, perhaps surprisingly, kept his place ahead of Paul Connor. Other than that, the Swansea line up was as expected (Gueret, Ricketts, Austin, Monk, Gurney, Martinez, O’Leary, Goodfellow, Forbes, Nugent and Trundle).
The first 20 minutes of this game were completely pointless, with neither side able to impose themselves. Then with the first bit of class of the evening, Martinez lifted the ball over the Oxford defence to give Trundle a run-in on goal. It was at an angle, but he should have done better than hitting a defender with his cross-shot.
Not long after, a near action replay saw Daps hit a shot wide of the far post. He then had a third very similar chance, but this time hit the near side-netting.
By this time, Oxford had actually created a chance, with a low cross from their right being tipped away by Gueret at full stretch before Kris O’Leary hammered the ball out for a corner.
A neatly worked short free kick then resulted in a powerful Gary Monk header being palmed over by the Oxford keeper. Just before the break, Martinez went close with a long range effort, and that was it for the first half. Frankly, the points were there for the taking if we wanted them badly enough.
Oxford looked a bit more threatening after the break, with Willy making one excellent save from a far post header. Then after about an hour came the turning point. The ball was played through for Forbes to run on to, but he was upended by the already-booked Oxford number 5 Jon Ashton. Yellow card number 2 followed for him, and Oxford were down to 10.
From the resulting free kick, the ball was played out to the right, and crossed for Nugent to flick it on. Via a couple of other ricochets, it reached the far post, where an unmarked Goodfellow nodded in.
At this point, we could and should have killed the game by scoring a second, but were repeatedly wasteful when breaking through the short-handed Oxford defence. This must have given Oxford a bit of confidence, as they spent most of the last 15 minutes putting us under the cosh. Connor and Anderson came on for Trundle and Nugent, and we switched to 4-5-1, inviting them to come at us even more. For all their pressure, however, there was only one real hairy moment, when a deflected shot went just over the bar with Willy beaten.
According to the scoreboard, 562 away fans were there tonight, which is a pretty impressive following for a midweek game. MOM for me would be Sam Ricketts, who was pretty faultless all evening, both going forward and at the back. O’Leary was also impressive, particularly in the first half, with a few crunching tackles. Goodfellow had a few reasonable touches, but didn’t deliver too much into the box, and looks very lightweight. His lack of tackling-back ability is a concern if we’re looking at him long term.
The 3 points mean we’re back on track, and back in the top three, but Scunthorpe will be a much tougher test that this demoralised looking Oxford side.