Monday, 14 November 2011

Blades Blunt Oxford Challenge

Well, that was all a bit of an anti-climax. Arriving at Bramall Lane full of hope along with around 2200 more yellows, I was looking forward to seeing Chris Wilder's team selection. When I eventually found it out, via the supporter in front of me (due to the pathetic excuse of a PA system that was available in the away end), I was surprised; top scorer Constable and inform Worley both on the bench. Right back Whing at centre back, 4 central midfielders and a confidence lacking striker on his own up front. Perhaps there is a gameplan I thought. Whether it was the new formation (4-1-3-1-1 was it?) or the shock of seeing a stadium only 20% full I don't know but the slow start of the Oxford team certainly ended the game as a contest. The movement of Sheffield front two Evans and Cresswell rather dragged our changed back four all over the place.And it was the two of them that somehow and rather luckily combined for the Blades' first goal. Cresswell attempted an overhead kick from a left wing cross, but having completly failed in his attempt to connect, the ball hit Oxford leftback Stevie Kinniburgh before dropping to Evans to lash home past a helpless Ryan Clarke. OK I thought, if we keep it at 1-0 for the next twenty minutes or so then we can still get something out of this. My hopes were dashed only seven minutes later, Whing went up for a 50/50 challenge with Cresswell and the striker hit the deck first, referee Boyeson awarded the free-kick to the home side and Evans found Clarke's bottom corner as he hit a low shot past what was supposed to resemble a wall. To our credit, we kind of put ourselves back in the game, a Smalley header looped over the bar but the former Oldham man was left chasing long balls deep into the corners. Loanee Jonathan Franks seemed abandoned just behind the lone frontman and rarely offered any attacking support. The halftime whistle came and the deflation in our fans camp was clear to see, with many opting just to sit down instead of going for a half time pie.
Wilder made two changes at half time, the forementioned Constable and Worley taking the places of Franks and McLaren respectively. A new shape of 4-4-2 with Whing now at right back and Damian Batt on the right hand side of midfield briefly threatened to put us back in the game. Constable and Smalley both were first to crosses but their weak headers only found the arms of Steve Simonsen in the United goal.
Chasing the game, I thought perhaps we might see a glimpse of youth team prospect Tyrone Marsh, but his chance of making his Oxford United debut was ended when Peter Leven finally gave in to injury, Josh Payne taking his place as midfield playmaker. Smalley and Constable were showing some signs of an understanding and perhaps in future weeks may build a successful partnership but the game was finally killed off when Clarke came for a speculative cross into the box and didn't do very well. Typical of the game, the first shot was deflected to Ryan Flynn who finished with ease into the roof of the next past Whing and Wright on the goal line.

To be honest, I expected a mass exit from the away end at this point but instead the fans raised themselves to sing the loudest of the whole game for the last twenty minutes. "Lets pretend we scored a goal" was almost perfectly timed as a Smalley header ended up in Simonsen's arms once again. The celebration of four imaginary goals and the "3-0 and you F***ed it up" chant raised smiles right across the away end. A standing ovation greeted the final whistle.

Annoyingly, the 2nd round draw pitched the Blades at home against Torquay, a game which I feel would have been very winnable for ourselves. I'm sure the Sheffield United fans will flock to Bramall Lane to see that one. A crowd of just over 7000 was surprising but expected judging by the comments on their fan forums. The FA Cup is over for another season and we move on to a tough game at Crawley next week, I'm sure true gentleman Steve Evans will welcome us to the Broadfield Stadium with open arms...

No comments: