Fan's View Fan's View 20/21 - No.33 - Pompey at home

Paul B

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Another hack attack on the Rage On-Line site so here's the whole thing.

SEASON 2020/21 No.33 – PORTSMOUTH AT HOME

Pre-match thinking

I was able to attend those two home league games when a few fans were permitted to cross the threshold but it was all very eerie. Whilst preferable to being sat in front of iFollow it was miles removed from the match day buzz of old so in a way it feels like the season has not really started. Yet here we are - after tonight’s game we will have completed over 60% of our league fixtures.

At times during the pandemic I have said that I’d be happy to come out the other side with OUFC still existing and not in financial ruin. With survival being the key, is promotion just a secondary target? I hope not and am sure it isn’t. It’s the same for all in L1 give or take the difference that size of club, debt pre-crisis and probably integrity and resilience of owners brings to the mix.

So the importance of this clash is glaringly obvious. There’s always something that little bit extra special about Oxford v Pompey home and away. It’s clearly not a local derby but there’s a rivalry that for many reasons has built up over the years. Whilst the edge on the pitch might be the same whoever we are playing, that’s certainly not the case on the terraces or in modern football speak in the stands.

This will be the fourth time we’ve not been able to attend OUFC taking on Portsmouth.

We know we’ve not played particularly well in February but in no way have we fallen apart. We failed to hit the back of the net against both Ipswich and Tranmere but it’s not as if we’ve been leaking loads ourselves. (Okay, I’ll accept Rochdale and Donny in a counter argument).

We know we’ve not beaten any of the real contenders at the top end of the table but that is what we have to start doing sooner rather than later if we are to end up top six.

Portsmouth are fifth coming into this, four points better off than we are but having played a game more. It’s imperative that we don’t let them get away. Their record on their travels is a daunting won eight, drawn two and lost two. The bookies make them favourites for this game. The best odds I can find for them to get promotion is 7/4. For us it is 6/1. (As an aside Bet Victor are offering 14/1 on Accrington).

So it seems we have been classed as the underdogs yet in their last seven league matches they’ve only averaged a point a game. They didn’t score in three of those games. They’ve lost the last two. A week after we went to the Memorial Ground and won, Portsmouth were beaten there 3-1.

Play as we did during that fantastic winning run and our billing could look a little silly.

Oxford United 0 Portsmouth 1

Not silly at all as it turned out.

We continue to play, as I said above, not particularly well. The defence is okay but the rest of it is devoid of almost everything that is needed to be a winning side against all but the worst of opponents at this level. Yet in the last two or three of the added minutes at the end of the game we went for it, properly went for it. We were so close. For the first time in the whole evening the adrenalin was pumping; the surroundings had gone; I was actually at the game. Every one of our players came to life and about bloody time I say. But FFS why leave it so late? Too late as it happened.

At the final whistle my verdict was Pompey deserved that. My son countered that by pointing to the final flurry and the chances we had then. During the second half when I’d commented that the visitors were the better team his answer had been there couldn’t be too many complaints if it was still a draw. That is true and apart from the goal we were never in a position where it was a case of “we got away with one there”.

I’ll still stick with my thinking that we got what we deserved though. Nothing. We fail the big tests. We have played three games now and have not scored. We look nothing like a team that could step up to the Championship. (Sits back and waits for the inevitable comments pointing out that if we were to go up the team next season would look very different). Okay, we look nothing like a team capable of getting into the Championship.

That said I don’t think this L1 has the quality of some of the others we’ve been in. There’s no outstanding team. Portsmouth didn’t do anything that had me thinking they’ll definitely be playing in tier 2 next season. Much more likely than us though.

I didn’t know what our game plan was. Like against Tranmere we allowed the opposition to assert themselves from the moment the first whistle blew. Yes we did end up with more possession than Portsmouth but it’s what a team does with the ball that counts. When we had it we didn’t have runners or movement up front. Whenever it looked like we had the potential to unleash something resembling an attack we had to go backwards. We had no attacking shape. Sam Winnall wasn’t getting any service.

I’ve tried to talk Winnall up. Previously I’ve said that once he gets a goal we’ll see a lot from him. That’s not happened. Unless something changes soon he’ll be in the “mistake, move on” category. Having seen him for Barnsley against us at Wembley I went home thinking, that’s some player. I know for a fact that’s not the player we are seeing in 20/21. Why? Another quote from my son, “I don’t know what sort of forward Winnall is or is supposed to be. We keep knocking it long to him and he’s not winning it”.

Please don’t think I’m looking for a scapegoat here. Many were underwhelming. No-one grabbed hold of proceedings. Cameron Brannagan was steady but you wouldn’t call that the performance of a midfield general controlling and pulling the strings. (I’m expecting too much too soon after his return? Probably)

Time now to mention a man who wasn’t playing. Come the end of the game I’d just about accepted that we will be kicking off the next campaign in L1. (Not totally given up the dream though). It wasn’t that which deflated me. Nor that we came up short in an important game. No, it was the proclamation by the commentary team just before the break that Marcus McGuane is likely to be out for the season. For me he was a huge piece in the jigsaw which read OUFC top six or automatic. A string puller. A strong runner with the ball in midfield. A player who gives his team-mates confidence and inspires them to play. I might have over-stated his case but without him I think our chances are dramatically reduced.

Olamide Shodipo did a little bit here and there but was hardly in the game. Neither was Mark Sykes from an attacking or creative perspective. Other than a couple of shots in the first quarter of the game the same could be said about James Henry. When I got to thinking Elliot Lee just might, he didn’t. He faded.

Basically we were devoid of attacking ideas. Or was it ability when facing a side above us? Been found out?

The introduction of Brandon Barker for Sykes with 25 minutes to go did our cause no harm. Initially though BB was being crowded out quite easily and lost the ball. Running with it is his game. Given that there was little going on around him what else could he do? Nothing but keep at it and get a ball or two in the box, which he did. At bloody last. All to no avail though but it felt better. It felt like I was now watching a team that had an inkling how to score a goal.

As for the only goal of the game. It was simplicity: a good cross in; a player coming in completely unmarked to head the ball beyond the keeper. Who should have picked him up? A midfielder or centre-half? I hope the coaching staff have the answer and the solution for next time. As for the next time I’ll just take it as a game of football and ignore any thoughts of the top six.

MK Dons did let in four at Shrewsbury. We are still eighth. No, stop it.

Before I sign off I would like to thank OUFC. I do like a good drink but in normal circumstances leave that for the weekend. Tonight I lasted until half time then the beer was opened - it’s the fidgety tension that does it - and more afterwards. Defeat is hard to take and the recognition that we don’t look good enough - and I couldn’t even bring myself to say “quite” good enough.

But Saturday is another day.
 

Paul B

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It's all very depressing.

And, I don't understand how a team that goes unbeaten in 9 games then cannot score, cannot pass and appears devoid of any tactical nous.

Well summed up Paul. Oh yes, we too succumbed to the evil drink. 😁

And why not.
 

horseman

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I had previously approached and viewed games in a calm manner with the thought of whilst acknowledging it was our team playing at least it was something to do or watch, last night much of that changed as i found myself shaking my head several times after stray passes and calling out loud Stop making those silly fouls.
A cry of Go On when it looked like we might equalise at the end and then thinking after the final whistle how that reminded me of a game against same opposition when Mr Wilder was in charge who when they arrived were in poor form and whilst i was sat in the car park he proceeded to big them up pre match on the radio and played the Name rather than an out of form opponent. Just like then i spent much of last evening staring down at the floor.
By 9pm my Teenage daughter had reminded me it is only a game Dad

Ah well back to the new normal
 

Sarge

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Our midfield have been second best for a few games now ... not supplying who ever it is up front, and not closing down the oppositions forays forward.... & we're firing blanks too ... KR and the coaching staff have got their work cut off if there's going to be any kind of genuine challenge to the play offs this season

maybe take the entire first team squad to watch our u18s next match , for a lesson in tenacity and a never say die attitude ?

MK Franchise on Saturday, here's hoping our fortunes change for the better
 

horseman

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Our midfield have been second best for a few games now ... not supplying who ever it is up front, and not closing down the oppositions forays forward.... & we're firing blanks too ... KR and the coaching staff have got their work cut off if there's going to be any kind of genuine challenge to the play offs this season

maybe take the entire first team squad to watch our u18s next match , for a lesson in tenacity and a never say die attitude ?

MK Franchise on Saturday, here's hoping our fortunes change for the better
Both kind of related, if the supply is down there's a fair chance the scoring % will be down too

I wouldn't say the coaching staff have their work cut out more a case of a little adjustment here and there
 

Paul B

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I had previously approached and viewed games in a calm manner with the thought of whilst acknowledging it was our team playing at least it was something to do or watch, last night much of that changed as i found myself shaking my head several times after stray passes and calling out loud Stop making those silly fouls.
A cry of Go On when it looked like we might equalise at the end and then thinking after the final whistle how that reminded me of a game against same opposition when Mr Wilder was in charge who when they arrived were in poor form and whilst i was sat in the car park he proceeded to big them up pre match on the radio and played the Name rather than an out of form opponent. Just like then i spent much of last evening staring down at the floor.
By 9pm my Teenage daughter had reminded me it is only a game Dad

Ah well back to the new normal
Totally with you on making silly fouls. Basic stuff. Doesn't help the team one bit but perhaps the individuals committing these fouls think well at least it makes it look as if I'm trying hard. Trying hard physically perhaps but not mentally.
 

werthersoriginal

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We don’t like teams that get in our face, do we ? Obvs Wycombe but even Wigan unsettled us that way. As I recall this has been the case for a few years and even before Karl’s time.
 

Manorlounger

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Looking at the replay it became apparent where we have issues. The tracking back, or lack of, led to their goal scorer being left unmarked and the only attempted interception came from Brannagan running backward and arriving too late. It also shows how Brannagan had identified the threat but did not react immediately.
One attack when Shodipo ran at the goal shows Winnall wandering forwards with no urgency and then realising the chance being too late on scene. In the same attack, Henry is seen gently ambling forwards leaving Shodipo isolated.
Basic mistakes and not isolated in the game. We are ponderous in attack and neglectful in defence. The midfield is either ineffective or bypassed by hoof balls to strikers who do not have the height or strength to play that style. Slow reactions see us missing second ball opportunities and we give up possession time and again through not having clear passing avenues. More off the ball movement and more cohesive and joined up attacking play is required. Something we were good at and utilised in the good run we experienced.
 
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horseman

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Looking at the replay it became apparent where we have issues. The tracking back, or lack of, led to their goal scorer being left unmarked and the only attempted interception came from Brannagan running backward and arriving too late. It also shows how Brannagan had identified the threat but did not react immediately.
One attack when Shodipo ran at the goal shows Winnall wandering forwards with no urgency and then realising the chance being too late on scene. In the same attack, Henry is seen gently ambling forwards leaving Shodipo isolated.
Basic mistakes and not isolated in the game. We are ponderous in attack and neglectful in defence. The midfield is either ineffective or bypassed by hof balls to strikers who do not have the height or strength to play that style. Slow reactions see us missing second ball opportunities and we give up possession time and again through not having clear passing avenues. More off the ball movement and more cohesive and joined up attacking play is required. Something we were good at and utilised in the good run we experienced.
The problem also is whilst keeping the ball after a spell of pressure is fine, there are far too many times when we play across the back followed by a diagonal ball towards a by now marked winger. Also why when we have a free kick just inside our half do we so often pass a yard to a player followed by a pass back towards our 18 yard box.
We showed with the move that led to Henry's shot being saved that quick interchanging with decent movement can create chances.
In Barker and Shadipo we have players capable of trickery pace and creativity so use them when they've space to run into with quick accurate passes rather than when there are 2 or 3 around them and if the later then look up as it follows someone else must be free
 

Victor1986

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Good report Paul.
It's been awful for a few games now - even though we won a couple of them! We don't get going from the first whistle & I reckon that has to be down to the last words uttered by the coaching staff before we cross the white line.
Get nothing on Saturday & we really will be just "idling away" to the end of the season.
 

ZeroTheHero

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I do sometimes wonder if we are too scared to do something creative and quick in case we lose the ball? But does that matter? - last night we were second best and lost but had slightly greater possession!
 

ljs

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Looking at the replay it became apparent where we have issues. The tracking back, or lack of, led to their goal scorer being left unmarked and the only attempted interception came from Brannagan running backward and arriving too late. It also shows how Brannagan had identified the threat but did not react immediately.

Not watched it back so may be wrong, but at the time I thought Moore was the one shouting to Brannagan, and pointing out the unmarked player to him when both were still outside the box. Brannagan didn't move towards the player.
 

Manorlounger

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Not watched it back so may be wrong, but at the time I thought Moore was the one shouting to Brannagan, and pointing out the unmarked player to him when both were still outside the box. Brannagan didn't move towards the player.
I think you may have something there. Moore was pointing and shouting, even more so after the ball hit the net, if that was directed at Brannagan then the situation is even worse as Brannagan made very little effort to cover off the run of the eventual scorer.
The players will have seen this as well and will know what really happened, let's hope they take on board what went wrong and put it right.
Not withstanding his role as captain, Moore is also the voice in defence and what he says should be heard and reacted upon.
 

Paul B

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Not watched it back so may be wrong, but at the time I thought Moore was the one shouting to Brannagan, and pointing out the unmarked player to him when both were still outside the box. Brannagan didn't move towards the player.
I usually watch things back again. But am beginning to find it all a bit painful at the moment so gave this a miss.
 

Sarge

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Looking at the replay it became apparent where we have issues. The tracking back, or lack of, led to their goal scorer being left unmarked and the only attempted interception came from Brannagan running backward and arriving too late. It also shows how Brannagan had identified the threat but did not react immediately.
One attack when Shodipo ran at the goal shows Winnall wandering forwards with no urgency and then realising the chance being too late on scene. In the same attack, Henry is seen gently ambling forwards leaving Shodipo isolated.
Basic mistakes and not isolated in the game. We are ponderous in attack and neglectful in defence. The midfield is either ineffective or bypassed by hoof balls to strikers who do not have the height or strength to play that style. Slow reactions see us missing second ball opportunities and we give up possession time and again through not having clear passing avenues. More off the ball movement and more cohesive and joined up attacking play is required. Something we were good at and utilised in the good run we experienced.
White ...on loan from Spuds ( I think?)
 

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