Fan’s View 23/24 – No.46: Burton away

Article by Paul Beasley Wednesday, April 10th, 2024  

FAN’S VIEW 23/24 – NO.46: BURTON AWAY

BURTON ALBION 0 OXFORD UNITED 4

I was fairly confident before this one but nowhere near as optimistic as I was ahead of the Fleetwood game the previous week.

Turns out this current mindset is justified. Two four nil league victories on the spin for the first time since 1984 apparently. The goals being scored are highly pleasing but just as much the clean sheets. For the first time this season we’ve achieved back to back shut outs and now have kept the opposition out in three of the last four games. Okay the quality of the opposition has been quite dreadful but “you can only beat what is in front of you” obviously.

With Lincoln dropping points at Reading, what a day. What not to like? Couldn’t have been better? Well actually yes it could. A lot better. Cameron Brannagan and Elliott Moore are key players. Keeping ourselves in that last play-off slot above Lincoln will be a lot more likely with those fit and firing. Our defence just isn’t the same without our captain and Brannagan is usually the heart- beat of the team. A “winner” in the way he plays. Every United fan will be waiting anxiously on the extent of the injuries these two have.

Naturally in this brewing town there were the pubs which started our visit off just nicely. The Coopers Tavern has been one of the very top drinking establishments on the circuit for many a year and continues to be so. A wide range of ales from barrel or hand-pump to choose from. The Joules Pale I opted for was “Clean, crisp and perfectly balanced, rich in malt, fruit and biscuit character, complemented by a satisfying bitter finish. Brewed with a blend of crystal malt providing a biscuity base and tipple malt creating a sweet caramel flavour.” That’s to make it up to those who questioned me for not mentioning the alcohol intake at Shrewsbury. Couldn’t have put this better myself. In fact I wouldn’t have known how to.

We then moved on to the Weighbridge Inn. A micro pub that’s difficult to locate on one’s first visit. Easy to find for me as it was my second time there. Not as full as last time and the lady running it had been abandoned by her husband and son. She was wearing her Ipswich shirt and watching the game at Carrow Road on a very small screen she had propped up on the bar. The two who had abandoned her were witnessing the action live. Chatting football, as I recall doing last time as well, I discovered she was a Tractor Girl by marriage. Much as she was looking at the screen and not a happy lass as the Canaries were a goal to the good, there was no inattention to the beer she was providing. Having poured three pints from the same hand-pull she spotted that the second two were not quite up to the standard of the first and instead of handing them over poured them away. 99.9% of bar staff wouldn’t have even considered doing this. Top marks for customer service.

The final beer stop before heading to the ground was Beeropolis. Another micro but not one I’ve been to before. It only opened in May 2012. Beer was fine but choice wasn’t great and there weren’t many local drinkers in. There was a Derby fan on the premises and he was helpful in telling us how long it would take us to walk to the Pirelli.  

There were more outside this pub than in it. They were young lads not old enough to drink. One came in and bought a snack, another a coke. Pre-match there’s nowhere for them to go other than just hang around. They weren’t wearing colours. I didn’t know if they were Burton or Oxford. They eventually wandered off. I left the pub before my travelling companions as I had to hand over a ticket to another mate at the ground. The youngsters came into sight. One of them decided to pick up and move a warning sign, presumably put out to cover a small hole in the road or path, a little further along the route having held it above his head. After the game walking back to the car there were four similar types just ahead of us. Don’t think they were the same lot but these kids all look the same to an old ‘un like me. What does one of them do? Pick up a portable triangular road sign, carry it few yards then put it down again. Is this a Staffordshire thing?

Still, if this is as rebellious as the youth of today get then perhaps the future of the country is a bit brighter than I thought. And I have to say that when I was quite close to the ground a few of the young lads stepped back to let me pass and were very polite.

By half time we were a goal to the good. When Burton visited us in December I described them as woeful and the worst team we’d played all season. For a while now it’s been obvious that there really are some other woeful sides in L1 this season. Overall from top to bottom the standard doesn’t appear to be at a level it previously has been in tier three. Yes, two or three at the summit that stand out from the rest: Pompey, Derby and Bolton? Peterborough, our next opponents possibly but I’m telling myself they’re beatable. I have to. I continue to maintain that a team doesn’t have to be all that to end up sixth.

Burton were again pretty crap in the first half but I didn’t have them down as being as bad as Fleetwood had been the previous week. By the end of the game though I’d have to say they had reclaimed the title of the worst opponent we’ve played this season.

(They weren’t)

All I’ll say to them is – one or two rubbish teams will stay up. That’s 2023/24 League One for you.

The Brewers had one plan of attack: long throw. That was it. We dealt with this uncultured approach superbly even with the strong wind that played quite a part in proceedings. No good hoping the percentage game would eventually pay off with mistakes bound to lead to goals when our back line were on this form. Moore was superb. He looked rather cultured at times in addition to his proper head on the ball defensive work. Ciaron Brown was almost as good. After a dodgy few matches very close to his best. Greg Leigh did a proper job as a more conventional full back and after a slightly shaky start Sam Long settled well too. In goal Jamie Cumming looked assured.

Burton only had two shots on target. The only one I can really remember was right near the end when we were playing with ten men because we’d used all of our subs when Moore had to depart. “We’ve had a shot” sang a few of the Burton fans who had not already gone home for their tea. Says it all.

We had 18 shots in total with eight on target.

We took the lead with about a quarter of the game gone and at no stage did we remotely look like relinquishing it. Stood almost on the centre spot Tolaji Bola misjudged a clearance. Fooled by the bounce and wind he got under it. His header went behind him and was taken on by Mark Harris. Head, knee and then he was on the edge of the area facing just Max Crocombe with Bola and another yellow shirt forlornly giving chase. Ball taken round keeper with right foot then put in with left from very close range.

For all our vast superiority the goals didn’t start flowing until there was nearly an hour on the clock, then three came in a 12 minute spell.

Before that we’d had a “Max Crocombe, he wants us to win” song from the away end as he completely cocked up when in receipt of a back pass on the bounce. He took it on his knee in awkward fashion, the ball then shooting upwards and hitting his hand. I’m no referee but isn’t that an indirect free-kick to us even though he didn’t pick the ball up? Perhaps Will Finnie thought it best to allow advantage as the ever alert Harris hit the side netting. Crocombe’s distribution throughout wasn’t up to much but that fitted with everything Burton did. Their players didn’t look as bothered as they should have been in the circumstances. That’s all fine and good by me provided our guys know full well that Peterborough this coming weekend will be more akin to Bolton than our last four opponents. Which they will of course and wins and clean sheets can only breed confidence.

Our second was a proper team goal worked from keeper to back of the net at the other end without an opponent getting a touch on the ball. Over half the side were involved. We moved the ball quickly with forward thinking intent. Cumming to Brown to Leigh to Tyler Goodrham. His pass with the outside of his right foot was world class. It deserved a better backdrop than a muddy surface and more looking on than the meagre 3,700. The entire right side of the Burton defence, if you can call it that, was dissected sending Josh Murphy away down the wing. Harris couldn’t miss when our winger played the ball in. Actually he nearly did miss as he almost got ahead of the ball, but he didn’t and it was 2-0.

The next goal was also end to end but almost entirely the doing of one man. Following a rare bit of action in our penalty area which we repelled quite easily, Harris, standing in the D, hooked the ball away leaving it dropping down nicely for Murphy who had three quarters of the field to run into. Which he did. In the blink of an eye he was facing Crocombe and slotting the ball home.

What an exceptional performer Murph is. When he was withdrawn 18 minutes later even the home fans clapped him as he walked round the pitch. One of them commented online that he’ll be back in the Championship next season. Hope it’s with us. Much praise is due for the management team who are getting the best out of him.

The final goal was yet another built directly from the back. This time it was Billy Bodin who stabbed the ball through to find the run of James Henry. Ryan Sweeney just collapsing to the ground as though his legs didn’t work helped but this was again well slotted home.

No deflections in this four.

The games get bigger and bigger. Biggest of the season yet against Posh on Saturday who will presumably have steamrollered Port Vale on Wednesday night.

Bring it on.   

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