Fan’s View 23/24 – No.21: Grimsby at home

Article by Paul Beasley Tuesday, December 5th, 2023  




I’m writing this on Monday evening and still don’t quite know what to make of it. Happy to be in round three? Well, obviously yes. Satisfied with the performance? Not sure at all.

Two L1 sides did get knocked out by L2 sides. Charlton 2-0 at Gillingham and Wycombe 2-0 at home to Morecambe. I thought our gate of 4149 was poor but the Chairboys only got 1604. That really is pathetic. With such low gates I’m interested to see how many in attendance are supporters of the visitors. Wycombe on their official site don’t give the gate figure let alone record how many from the Lancashire seaside town were there. In fact the match report only ran to 101 words. Might as well have said “some men kicked a ball about” and been done with it.

But back to us, take away those in the away end and we’re left with 153 fewer home fans in the ground than we had for round one.

Bloody roads

My second moan is the journey down the A34 – stop start, stop start for three miles because of the works necessitating a single lane on or on to the Botley Road. That didn’t put me in the best of moods.

The carpark behind the East stand wasn’t occupied by travellers or enough cars to make parking difficult so at least I had plenty of time to pick up my pre-booked Northampton ticket. I’ll make this my last off the field gripe about the number of attendees.

Buying tickets

I’d ordered a Peterborough ticket online not long after they went on sale, opting for “collection”. Last Monday I did the same for a Northampton ticket. I tried to buy at 12:00 when the tickets were released but trying two different browsers using the link on the news item page got “site not available”. Going in through the “away tickets” link the Cobblers weren’t listed. Then at 12:20 they were. Ticket purchased, easy once they were there.

I walked up to the “collections” window and was handed the envelope with my ticket in, no problem. BUT, what if I had not been going to this game? Clearly many regulars had opted not to.

I’d rocked up to get this and my Posh one at the Bolton match. Peterborough envelope, tick. “I’ve got a Northampton one too”. Reply “we’ve not got them all done yet”. Um, I thought. Why’s mine not been done? I must have been one of the first to purchase. I knew some had got theirs. Given I also knew problems had occurred in the past I rang the club on Wednesday: “Ticket Office closed”. I rang on Thursday. Third time I got through to a very nice lady, obviously under stress. I was assured it would be ready for Saturday. Clearly under staffed. She pointed out how difficult it was, having to print 1500 tickets off and put them in envelopes. Working on it now she said. So I got off the phone quickly. I’d wasted a minute or so of her time and quite a bit more of mine.

It might seem a small matter but I think this is evidence of some of the things that the club need to get right. A couple of lines on the website explaining that not all Northampton tickets would be available for collection at the Bolton game would have helped and saved a few more phone calls like mine I suspect. COMMUNICATION is key. Plus for those whose Northampton tickets weren’t ready to collect before Bolton but who weren’t going to the Grimsby game the club would have to post them out and stand the cost.

The game

Played in the cold and fog which doesn’t set the pulses racing.

Being expected to win. That doesn’t set the pulses racing either. Impossible to exceed expectations then. Or perhaps we could if we played magnificently and scored some wonder goals.

No don’t be ridiculous. It’s all about winning and getting through. Plus it only cost seven quid for me to get in being a really old git.

Grimsby played some really nice passing football. Neat control, good movement, willing to receive the ball in fairly tight spaces. I’m not saying we weren’t on it – well probably I am a little bit to be honest because I thought they looked a bit sharper than us, particularly in the first half, and wanted it a little bit more. It was as if we thought we could stay in a low gear and still win the game. Which we actually did, so how can one argue that our approach and attitude wasn’t the right one? (Possession stats: Grimsby 56% Oxford 44%. Us 23 shots of which 11 were on target. Them, 12 shots of which 5 were on target).

Even in all this it wasn’t as if we were being cut to ribbons. We’re way better than that but the Mariners did get through a couple of times. It was here they were very much lower L2 standard. Bad finishing. Exactly as a Grimsby fan had commented pre-match.

I recall a visiting forward being played in with a decent chance of at least giving James Beadle an opportunity to show he was deserving of his wages. Instead he seemed to go rigid, fall to the floor as if he’d been felled by a lumberjack and let the ball hit him sending it out for a goal kick.

Kicking the other way at 2-0 down I thought they were going to halve the deficit. Beadle had made a good save but it looked like Danny Rose may get on the end of the loose ball. He made to turn to do so, slipped and ended up spread-eagled face down in the turf.

It should be noted though that everything Beadle had to do he did well. He was never put under pressure from dead balls.

We do have quality though and that bit extra which we only had to show a couple of times to get the job done. Actually one would have been enough.

In the 11th minute we headed away a corner which set Josh Murphy away from half way in our own half – and away he did go. Pace aplenty. Quicker with the ball than the chasing Kamil Conteh without it. Bearing down on goal he got a shot away which keeper Harvey Cartwright could only parry into the danger zone. Marcus McGuane, one of two yellow shirts who had been able to keep pace with our fleet footed number 23, was on hand to hit the ball home. Some of that in the league now too please MM.

The save Cartwright pulled off from Ruben Rodrigues before the break was overly spectacular but not a bad effort from our number 20.

RR was the most talked about Oxford player by far in the first half. His ability was there to see …… BUT – and that is a big BUT – hasn’t he got the memo? If he has, hasn’t it got through to him? He stupidly got sent off at Cheltenham and now this. How more petulant can you get? It wasn’t as if he was getting angry after suffering a nasty foul. If I was his manager I’d be livid. I don’t think any Oxford fans near me thought he should remain on the pitch. It was mostly “get him off at half time” but some had gone for “get him off now”.

If I were his manager I’d also be thinking, but he’s a talent, how do I keep him on the pitch and get the best out of him? It should be remembered that Rodrigues is 27, that’s well into middle age in footballing years. Please grow up. But if he does, does the good stuff get curtailed too? A dilemma.

Billy Bodin appeared instead of Rodrigues when the players came out for part two. Good call from Des Buckingham and it was BB who got our second with a simple header from a Cameron Brannagan cross in the 75th minute.

That goal came in a brief spell where we looked way better than Grimsby. A spell where I genuinely got excited, felt entertained and had a feeling of real optimism.

This was down to the changes made by Buckingham in the 68th minute. Off went Josh Murphy and Stan Mills. Murphy had shown what he can do for the goal. Mills again I thought wasn’t used enough. I feel for the lad a bit. He’s ready to go nearly all the time but our patient passing football often has a mind-set of  looking short and not getting a head up to spot where he’s at or likely to get to as the ball travels a further distance than we usually propel it in. This isn’t a criticism by the way. It’s the way we play.

The two that came on were Tyler Goodrham and Marcus Browne. I’ll start with the former but the latter is sadly the bigger talking point.

Goodrham got me out of my seat. He was superb. Close control. Ball at his feet. They couldn’t get it off him. And for a little fella, what strength. Going back to “they wanted it that little bit more”, in the first half a Grimsby player surrounded by three Oxford players came away with the ball – Goodrham had five of theirs crowding him. He dribbled free forcing attempts to rob him of possession away.

So good to see Browne back. I’m a fan, big fan, but I do have reservations, big reservations. That’s because I see him as a tremendous footballer for L1 but not a tremendous team player. I very much want him fit and available for selection though.

He looked so dangerous down the left going past opponents at will.

Then 12 minutes later he was down. Off the ball. Gloves off, slammed to the ground as he walked off. Shirt off in angry frustration.  I feel for the lad. Was it really bad? Or is it more “he said he felt a little bit tight, so rather than risk anything further, we just precautionarily got him off” as reported in the Oxford Mail? Really hope it’s that, after all it was a chilly afternoon.

Are there other players we need to talk about? Yes, probably.

Elliott Moore was so steady again. Alongside him Jordan Thorniley was getting distance on his headers too.

Brannagan and MM provided a solid platform.

Then there’s Mark Harris. Game after game the same debate. He hasn’t scored a league goal since mid-August.  He missed chances here that an on form steady L1 striker would probably have put away. Ah but the passes to him weren’t quite right. They had too much on them. It’s all been said. What, every week? It could be that like Mills he suffers from not being picked out when he makes his runs. I’ve heard it said that he brings more to the game than goal scoring. Just as well, but I can’t see it. I’ve heard that he’d be better as a number 10 alongside or just behind another striker. Possibly but I can’t see it. Wish I could because I want everyone in a yellow shirt to succeed.

He went off in the 84th minute, Josh McEachran replacing him. What an asset to have on the bench. I can understand why he doesn’t start but is there a better passer of the ball at the club?  Mostly it is the short simple possession retaining balls he plays but there was one pass in this that he played through to set a team mate on goal that even a visionary sat at the back row of the stand wouldn’t have seen. The off-side flag went up, probably rightly, but that wasn’t the point. Wow.

Sent to Coventry

Three home draws in a row was too much to ask for.  You get who you get and that’s it. As the balls came out I either went “glad it’s not them” or “not them then, shame” for various reasons.

Coventry away it is. It could have been worse. Not far away. Bigger game for us than them. We should take a good following to a decent stadium.

Bookies only have the Sky Blues as 8/11 to beat us. We’re 4s with 5/2 the draw. That will change.

It won’t be like 13 Feb 1982 that’s guaranteed. Jumpers for goalposts. Plastic seats for Frisbees. Highfield Road is no more.

Looking forward to getting my ticket.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, December 5th, 2023 at 12:14 pm and appears under News Items. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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