Oxford Utd 2 Lincoln City one, a view from the Stacey West
Into the coliseum strode the gladiators, feted by fans from Academia and Impdom, in good numbers, heart and cheer. The people's games may be played with orbs these days, but this joust had the best of both worlds, the makings of safety if not sanity for the Imps and an enjoyable end of season pat on the back for our hosts with the mosts. All is above average in the creditable first football League end of term report for quite a while, for Oxford United our scholarly hosts. Indeed the sun was out the sky was blue and a perfect pitch completed the view. Some sherberts at the head of The River then, but first to the cast and crew.
For the benefit of our Oxford guests first the teams & sub schemes, then the match report followed by a foottnote and those all important stats at the end.
The Teams & Schemes
Batt Worley Wright Tonkin
McLaren Hall Payne (Y)
Potter Craddock Constable (Y)
57 MacLean for McLaren 62 Purkiss for Batt 72 Kinniburgh for Wright 72
21 Eastwood, 18 Kinniburgh, 23 Purkiss, 30 Hannson, 27 Marsh,25 Woodley, 32 MacLean
Green Hone (Y & R) Watts (Y) Anderson
Hughton Howell Keltie Kilbey McCallum
1 Anyon, 19 Clapham,14 O'Keefe, 26 Kilbey,10 Broughton, 27 Hutchinson, 39 Spencer
But to the game Footy fans to the game............
Oxford were quick to probe the two deep, 9 man Imps phalanx, with the lively Potter arrowing wide. Hall then forced Parish to palm a ferocious airbender from the acutest of angles for a corner. The Imps were beginning to show their hand; one where quantity wins out over quality, but then beggars can’t be choosers when the Blue Square abyss beckons. Thus the 5 midfield matadors from Impdom would strangle the mercurial Oxford trio. Amen then as the meek inherit middle earth; ensuring Oxford’s chances were few and that our one or two would count. Bingo as on 5 one such counter almost brought the house down. Grimes switched the play to McCallum, who got lucky given the ball ricochet off what appeared two left feet. This, and a sublime chip come cross, beat his attendants and found Hughton who headed home. Cue unbridled joy from the red and white legions, feasting on the fumes of freedom.
An entertaining end to end affair ensued as Oxford gave up the carpet football concept on their lush green Axminster, in order to get over and around a midfield that had more obstacles than a super injunction or M40 junction combined. Hone put in a bone crunching challenge on Constable to earn a yellow and start a chain of events that was bound to end in tears and fuel our fears. Payne’s subsequent free kick was well wide and ruffled far fewer feathers. An Imps counter saw Howell hit a 25-yard rising howitzer that Clarke clawed, his finger nails sufficient to see it cannon back off the crossbar. Constable, one for superintendent and 20 goals plus next year I would say, was then denied by a full stretch Parish who was up to claim the collection as smartly as a born again Christian.
Watts, a weaker link by the week if you ask me, then saw yellow for a challenge on Payne but at least Hone and Green were giving their all for the cause with Anderson trying as usual bless him. Green, playing a captains game, almost connected with a flying header at the other end after McCallum had finally elected to cross a corner. We have all this height yet we normally knock it short. Constable then did Hone to even the score to a yellow apiece. Payne also did Anderson yet butter wouldn’t melt that time it seemed. How Parish then did not see red was the talking point of half time.
With the half time prawns inches from mouths, the cretinous Keltie played a hospital ball back to Parish with ‘1-1’ written all over it. Parish clattered Craddock even if he did at least try to make a challenge just outside the box, but wait go go go, ‘tis the gallant Green backstage and making for the posts. It was a clever move as he was deemed the last man and Parish given a yellow to much derision from the hordes who all had thumbs down for Caesar and referee Malone to despatch him forthwith. A reprieve and yellow for the lucky young fellow.
Both managers kept the faith for a second half that could still go either way as the Imps legs inevitably tired against an Oxford onslaught. Howell miss hit a low effort wide before Payne slowed him down for his troubles as the titanic battle in the middle continued under a baking sun. Constable and Potter were combining well and becoming too clever for those tiring legs. Constable was unlucky to lash into the side netting and Potter was starting to find space on the flank that are meat and drink to Craddock and Constable.
The Imps still looked good for a second as Oxford left spaces at the back, with a Fuseini chip against the post perhaps changing the cause of the game. MacLean replaced McLaren the U’s won a corner and Parish flapped at the fine floated cross. The ball dropped to Asa Hall who struck straight and true for one all. Harsh on the Imps perhaps but we still had 11 on the field and had ridden our luck albeit off the back of hearty endeavour.
Wilder then played further cards with Purkiss on for Batt and Potter moving wide as an out and out winger. Thus 4-4-2 would stretch our tiring limbs with McCallum and Hughton poor cover for fullbacks Green and Anderson even at the best of times. The Boss did not seem to think so as he failed to make a tactical switch let alone any subs.
Potter was a freed bird on that wing with almost half an hour to fly. Parish was his equal a minute later blocking bravely with his legs. New arrival Maclean’s rasping effort from the edge of the box forced a save too but the midfielders free kick was well wide as Oxford looked odds on to breach the crumbling Lincolnshire dikes, springing leaks all over the place. Sure enough the mercurial Potter twisted and turned to give Craddock, a thoroughbred in the paddock, the opportunity to pull the trigger in the box.
One nil down 2-1 up and the Imps were back in the manure good and proper. There was inevitably a further fly of course when Hone pulled back sparring partner Constable on the edge of the box. The second yellow and subsequent red sees him miss Saturdays do or die against Aldershot. Look on the bright side at least they wont have Potter, the midfield matador almost adding a third with a trade mark drive and rising pile driver.
When last we met Oxford, on 16/12/2005 they were on their way to relegation while we would play Grimsby in the playoffs. Clearly the healthy crowd and potent strike force at Oxford show how these two parochial City clubs are going in completely different directions whatever their respective results next week. The Cods did the double over us in May 2006; ominously with the utter shambles going on at Sincil Bank they may well do the same next.
Yet to go on a message board or to dare to question the Trust, the board or our fans representatives is seen as heresy. Perhaps even on a par with the High Treason of seeing the commercial and business logic, not to mention cash and ambition, of Keith Roe and Ray Trew. Who were those people that made that decision and why do we suffer their short arms, deep pockets and desire to put the club second to their personal aims? But surely we can see the merits of our emphasis on a training ground and youth policy as against Oxfords ambitious team and more than twice as full ground.
Thanks but no thanks chaps you have had your chances, why not fall on your swords and put the club up for sale at at least the share price you bought it for. Maybe then someone with cash and the ability to sort the ground access out might come in. That way even though we may play our games at a new ground the club will at least get full value from a developer for its prized asset. And hopefully before it is too late. Yes we will survive by the skin of our teeth next week but then the battle you feel will really begin for the remaining hearts and minds of Lincoln City Football Club.
Oxford Utd 2 - 1 Lincoln City (HT 0-1)
Oxford Hall 61 Craddock 75
Lincoln Hughton 5
Att: 7,485 (Imps 774)
Oxford Utd 58% Lincoln City 42%
Shots on target
Oxford Utd 5 Lincoln City 3
Shots off target
Oxford Utd 10 Lincoln City 5
Oxford Utd 3 Lincoln City 3
Oxford Utd 9 Lincoln City 13
Oxford Utd 0 Lincoln City 5
Oxford Utd 3 Lincoln City 5
Oxford Utd 2 Lincoln City 4
Oxford Utd 0 Lincoln City 1