Saturday, 24 September 2016

Oxford United 1 v Charlton Athletic1

Another away point but not one those who made the trip appear pleased with. Russell Slade again being accused of negative tactics and of leaving two points at the Kassim Stadium. Not much of a match either by the sounds of it and Oxford looked a distinctly average side.

Harry Lennon came in for Jason Pearce and didn't look confident. Having picked up one yellow, he allowed himself to get sent off in the last couple of minutes for second yellow following a foul on Oxford's man-of-the-match, Liam Sercombe. Maybe an opening for Texeira to step back in alongside the BFG?

Nicky Ajose also sat this one out as we again went with Magennis as the lone striker and Lookman out wide in a now familiar five man midfield. This is what's frustrating fans and when Holmes was ready to come off the bench, it was Lookman who made way. There's been a lot of criticism over our slow and defensive centre-midfield but we aren't exactly spoilt for choice upfront, especially if Lookman is played out wide. Ajose has struggled to touch the ball in the games he's played. Novak is a journeyman and he looks like he's carrying weight and Magennis, whilst a decent target man and an aerial threat, has never been a prolific goal-scorer. We really do need our midfield to join the attack as a formation and not simply sit deep and look for Holmes or Lookman. 

Slade looked quite happy in his post-match questioning and spoke of turning draws into wins. He said he's looking forward to the next three games - all at the Valley, including a cup game I've forgotten about and won't be attending. The trouble is, we really need six points against Oldham and Rochdale and I can't see us beating them both. What we can't do here Russell, is turn wins into draws.

Two wins from the opening nine isn't good enough if we have any realistic hopes of promotion and we have managed only three points in September. Sitting in 16th place in the table this evening, we really have to avoid dropping down any further or we risk inviting doom and gloom into the dressing room once again. What won't help matters is if we do continue to stumble is our fans. Already sick-to-the-back-teeth with the owners and a painful relegation still fresh in the memory, there will be no quarter given to Russell Slade if his side struggles.

Injuries could be a deciding factor this season. We can't afford Holmes or Lookman to get badly crocked. Holmes has been suffering with a bad back and may need some protection. We have defensive cover but could do without having to introduce a fresh goalkeeper. We have options in centre-midfield but they all look very similar and not good enough to support a challenge for the play-offs.

We were relegated last year because we failed to invest in the side and I don't believe the changes made during the close season were enough to realistically expect to mount an automatic promotion campaign. Knowing Duchatelet and Meire, I suspect that was never an ambition. I think they would rather underspend and hope to catch a play-off spot and squeak up that way. The trouble with that, of course, is you end up with what we have seen already and it can quickly turn into a struggle and another downward spiral for all involved.

1 comment:

Si Jones said...

Much of our creative threat on the bench again, funny how Botaka only ever gets 10 minutes but still manages attempts on goal and causes problems. If we play a last of the summer wine defensive midfield what can we expect. We need to get Novak ready up front as a creative forward he can make things happen.