Fan’s View 23/24 – No.32: Bristol Rovers away

Article by Paul Beasley Monday, January 29th, 2024  



I now feel as low as I did when we were suffering the last knockings of the Karl Robinson era last season. Our first half performance here was dire. There was some improvement after the break but that was still nowhere near the standard required to win football matches at this level.

We had been contenders now we resemble a clown car progressing at 5mph whilst juggernauts are crushing us and opponents who have put together much finer tuned vehicles will soon be disappearing in the distance.

Not for the first time I’ll say I’m not one to be screaming for a manager’s head not long after he’s come through the door and I have to repeat that I was happy with Des Buckingham’s appointment. None of the other candidates filled me with joy. At the time Liam Manning was brought into our football club that looked like the recruitment team had made the right decision so I had faith that they would come up with the goods again.

Cool headed logic unfortunately tells me Des is not the man for the job. We’re a mess on the pitch. No identity. No discernible style of play with the end product of scoring a goal in mind. Seems to me we are much more focused on working the ball back towards our own goal than getting it near the one we are supposed to be attacking. Plus the ability to defend has disappeared.

The last line of defence being the keeper, we’ve not upgraded, put it that way. Beadle’s not about any more though and that was just one of those things that happens when loan signings do well.

I got this added to the end of an email about walking football I received from a non-Oxford supporting mate: “I saw the goals Oxford conceded at the weekend and have to say it was not your goalies finest moments”.

I can’t detect any real belief in the fan base that we will have success with Des at the helm. The only mild argument I’ve heard for staying as we are is that you “have to give a new manager time”. I get that but there’s no extra substance to this with “I think in the medium/long term he will be successful because …….”

At the moment it’s a cluster***k. I think that sums it up.

Naturally though I’ll be there against Pompey supporting DB and the team. Doesn’t help doing anything other than that but when someone asked me would I mind if I woke up to the news that he had been relieved of his duties my honest answer would have to be no. In some ways that makes me feel both disloyal and awful but that’s the truth. Perhaps he’s very good at coaching but not managing. The job title may be “Head Coach” but in the absence of a first team “manager” that’s basically what the head coach is. That involves managing men.

However if I had detailed insider knowledge of what was actually taking place within every part of the football club I love I’d likely come to the conclusion that there are deep and widespread issues that cannot be laid at DB’s door.

Usually when a new Head Coach/Manager comes in they bring their team with them. People they know and can trust and have worked with over a number of years. That this didn’t happen cannot be a good thing for either Buckingham or his now assistant Chris Hackett.

I am extremely grateful that our owners are funding the club and have covered some large losses by purchasing new shares. (Hate to think what the soon to be due accounts will look like and then those for the current season will look like. Could be horrendous). But do they have all focus on the Triangle with little or no thought that there will always be football matches to be won irrespective of where our home, rented or owned, happens to be.

As a fan of many decades I come away from places like the Memorial Ground after performances like this really hurting. Does that pain run right through the club from top to bottom?

It’s not just hurt, its anger too. It’s easy to get close to losing it. The language goes. But it’s not right to direct it at the players. So it may be an opponent, an official or a steward. It becomes easy to find fault in everything. The slowness in removing the blue smoke bomb the home fans had thrown on the pitch after they scored, the jokey look on the club official’s face when he did finally kick it into touch, the police filming seemingly concentrating on one or two Oxford fans in the seats not the much larger group of Rovers fans from where the missile had probably been thrown. The price of a ticket to get that poor view from the terraces. That new stand where it cost even more for away fans is held up with iron poles obstructing the view.

Poor value for money but realistically that conclusion is arrived at mostly based on what our team produced on the pitch. We were short changed. It’s not just the money it is the time and effort spent. Bristol isn’t very far from Oxford but we have fans from all over. My mate from Warrington had come down and was stopping locally with his daughter. Here’s a comment he made “I defend them being prepared to go backwards if the initial build-up play hasn’t come off.  However, I cannot defend the bit where Greg Leigh won a free kick in the Rovers half only for us to play it straight back for our goalie to hoof it under pressure.” Precisely.

Mrs FV listened to the game on Radio Oxford. “It’s all a bit scrappy” said Nathan. Jerome: “take away the S”. Yes as far as radio goes, nailed it. In the real world there would have been a few expletives thrown in.

I’ve not mentioned individual incidents or referred to the stats. That’s because I can’t bring myself to watch any replays of this and at the moment have had it with stats. I will quote these though from a game that had nothing to do with us. Ipswich 28 shots, 13 on target, possession 78%, goals one. Maidstone two shots, both on target, possession 22%, goals two. Of course this was an exception to the norm and 49 times out of 50 the Championship side would beat the one from National League South but the point is that the only figures that count for anything at the end of the day are those in the goals for and against column.

Anything else worth mentioning? Did the day have any redeeming features?

Mark Harris scored again. That’s five in the last six games in all competitions, the first of those coming at Charlton. Makes my comments on OXSO Sports Online that day now look a bit daft but that can be what happens when I or any fan give opinion after opinion. I’m so happy to be proved wrong. I’d love to be wrong about so much I’ve written.

Tyler Burey looked okay. Too early to form a solid opinion though. We need more than “okay”. Much more from the whole squad. The key question here is what is the end product? Last year we had Djavan Anderson and Yanic Wildschutt.

The only true saving grace as often is the case was the pre-match socialising. The only establishment we visited was the Drapers Arms, a micro pub which is very close to the ground. A gem. Run by a real ale enthusiast. Good choice of styles, each top quality. Surprisingly it never got packed. Friendly home fans and you can’t say that about all the hostelries in the area from what I have heard. One of our travellers met a Gashead who he used to work with many years ago in there. We were arguing football. It wasn’t who supported the better team but who at present supported the shittiest.

The score line answered that.

There’s no denying that we came out in the second half more fired up and with purpose. We bothered to attack and when the deficit was halved noise rose from the away terracing. A few clenched fists and passionate cries of “come on, we can do this”.

But we couldn’t do it. At 2-1 the next goal predictably didn’t come from us.

I’m going to make no prediction or comment ahead of Pompey’s visit other than to say what will be will be. I would though ask what is being done on the training ground to address our long list of weaknesses in the few days we have ahead of this one? If it is nothing by 22:00 on Tuesday I’ll be as fuming as I was, and still am to some extent, after this.


FINANCIALS – due to further technical issues the delayed Barnsley financial analysis won’t be appearing. I am taking that as an omen that we will get back to winning ways and end up playing the Tykes in the play-off semi-finals when Colin can do his stuff prior to a 3-0 home win before we march on to Wembley and the Championship. Did I hear someone shouting “nurse”?

This entry was posted on Monday, January 29th, 2024 at 11:07 pm and appears under News Items. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

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