Fan’s View 23/24 – No.47: Peterborough at home

Article by Paul Beasley Tuesday, April 16th, 2024  

Fan’s View 23/24 – No.47: Peterborough at home

Photo, Steve Daniels

Oxford United 5 Peterborough United 0

“Unbelievable Jeff” “Football, bloody hell” and any other such exclamations. Throw them all in for this one. I absolutely can’t believe this happened. Quite possibly my favourite day watching my football team in our three sided stadium in the nearly 23 years we’ve been there.

No way could anyone have envisaged this outcome, not even those who bet on a 3 or 4 nil Oxford victory every week no matter who the opposition is. (No one does 5-0 surely?)

The opposition here was a team that had just won the EFL Trophy and with five fixtures remaining still had ambitions to get automatic promotion. Winning their games in hand and overturning a five goal GD deficit when compared to Bolton, who they play on the last day of the season, would have put them just one point behind second placed Derby. A team that arrived with an average of 1.95 goals scored per game, the highest in L1. I’ve had them down as a very attacking team for years. A team that comes at the opposition and, when really firing, scores plenty of goals, but one that is never going to be the most solid at the back.

It also has to be noted that we rarely beat the very best teams when they visit, particularly not in games that matter. This one very much mattered.

And again “wow”. Quite possibly the best league performance seen at the Kassam. If not the best then very close.

In all this euphoria I would throw in a note of caution though, on two counts. This was Peterborough’s third game in seven days. We’d had a week to recover after Burton. Darren Ferguson chose the same starting XI in all three games so some of their apparent knackeredness has to be down to him. NB: Four half time subs didn’t work. There’s no getting away from the fact that fixture pile-ups can have a significant impact come the end of a season, every one of which can rightly be termed “long and hard” (Ooh er Missus). Our turn is coming in a few days when the encounter with Stevenage will be the third OUFC match in seven days.

No Cameron Brannagan. No Elliott Moore. Someone had to “step up”. They did. Every single one of them. Sam Long into the captain’s role.

I recall so few mistakes made by our guys they can be counted on the fingers of one hand.

So what if we only had 30% possession? We bossed it. Winning by a five goal margin wasn’t flattering. We could very easily have had a few more.

Massive credit to our manager for getting us to play in a completely different way to what we had been doing earlier in the season and well into his reign too. We were happy to let the visitors have the ball and hunt them down as they tried to play it around at the back. Presumably the reasoning being that it’s not only teams at the bottom that have mistakes in them when pressured in their own third, particularly so when close to goal. 

Our defensive shape without the ball had solidarity written all over it. Yes, a team like Peterborough were going to create a chance or two but we limited them.

We’d done nothing attacking wise up to getting our first on 19 minutes. Peterborough were knocking it about in defence after breaking up an Oxford attack. It was all happening quickly but such was their mindset and the numbers we had close by, they went backwards, and when it comes to quick these days Josh Murphy is nearly always the winner. A slight hesitation at the heart of the Posh back line and he was on the ball and immediately on the floor. Penalty won. No Cameron Brannagan, no worries. Mark Harris powerfully put the spot kick away.

Not long after Ricky-Jade Jones hit our bar from close range when he should have put the chance away. That told us we might be in for a testing afternoon but just past the half hour mark we got a second and were never in the slightest danger thereafter.

Peterborough, no lesson learned, again were knocking the ball about close to their own goal more intent on finding keeper Jed Steer than getting it out of harm’s way. Probably one of those this is our way of playing things and nothing is going to change that whatever the outcome. If that’s the way a manager wants his team to play that’s the way they have to play. Stubbornness? This can really infuriate fans but Oxford fans were loving it.

First it was Harris who rushed at Steer as the ball came to him but the keeper managed, not totally comfortably, to get it away to a teammate out wide. With Oxford men marking well the ball was played back to another pink shirt stood on the penalty spot. First time he played it back to Steer. Murphy was waiting like a coiled spring to pounce once more and jumped to head Steer’s attempted chipped pass into the goal.

Now it really was time to start believing. After the previous two games the “we don’t keep clean sheets” no longer had validity.

Seven minutes later it got even better. Oxford had numbers at the back and with Peterborough finding no way through they produced an errant pass.  Ruben Rodrigues then played a first time pass to Tyler Goodrham whose second touch sent Murphy away down the wing. Counter attacking football. A joy to watch. With his pace and control Murphy was in the penalty area in no time at all. He attracted three pink shirts but they were unable to prevent him laying a pass into the path of Rodrigues who scored past the despairing dive of Steer.

We really were in dream land now. And it could have got even dreamier before the break. The ball was being moved around superbly. No dawdling about and sitting on the already magnificent lead. It invariably found its way to Murphy who was not only out-skilling any opponent he came up against but was also showing his strength too.  

Owen Dale hit a post and then missed an absolute sitter. A terrible miss maybe but in the circumstances one that we didn’t care about.

The second half was much the same. Thirteen minutes into it number four arrived. Josh McEachran swung his body around delivering the ball for Dale to bring down near the touch line. Such was the understanding throughout the side he knew where Fin Stevens would be and passed the ball to the advancing full-back without looking. Stevens’ inviting cross was met by a Rodrigues diving header.

There could have been more before the fifth in the final minute of the ninety. Greg Leigh was the second Oxford player to hit an upright.

By this point I’d kind of switched off because it had been job done well before now but some yellow shirts were looking for more. Leigh took a quick-ish free-kick finding Billy Bodin. It mattered not that BB was isolated and outnumbered. He controlled the ball with his chest, beat Ronnie Edwards and perfectly chipped Steer. That really was the icing on the most delicious of cakes.

To make that cake even tastier both Lincoln and Stevenage lost at home to Wigan and Burton respectively. This means that if we get a point when the Imps visit the Kassam, Stevenage can’t make the top six. And if we beat Lincoln that knocks them out too. Leaving just Blackpool who will be six points behind with just two games left and with an inferior goal difference to the tune of at least seven.

But we absolutely know not to count chickens. Form comes and goes. After a run of ten wins and two draws from twelve games, Lincoln have dropped five points in the last two. We’ve won four and drawn one of our last five, scoring 16 goals and letting in just one. Hitting form at the right time as they say. Our last defeat was 5-0 at Bolton. We should use that as much as our similar score victory in this one to spur us on on Tuesday (which, given how slow I now am at writing these FVs, will be the day I get round to publishing it).

(NB: Colin’s financial piece on Peterborough will be included in the Lincoln FV)

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