FAN’S VIEW 23/24 – NO.48: LINCOLN AT HOME

Article by Paul Beasley Thursday, April 18th, 2024  

FAN’S VIEW 23/24 – NO.48: LINCOLN AT HOME

OXFORD UNITED 0 LINCOLN CITY 1

In the post-match interview Greg Leigh talked of highs and lows and the sensible attitude of not getting carried away with either but let’s be honest what fan could not have been blown away by the way we hammered Peterborough?

One thing was for sure though, we were never going to do the same to the Imps. A win was even more imperative for them than it had been for Posh and boy did they have a determination and drive to make sure it happened.

Listening to Leigh stopped me getting as down as I thought I might end up.

We didn’t play anywhere near as well as three days earlier. We made more mistakes in the first five minutes than we had in the entire game on Saturday. This time it was our turn to have two thirds possession and end up with nothing to show for it.  Lincoln pressed as we tried to play out from the back and we didn’t get anywhere with this until the first half was well underway. Passes were going astray and we never got the wingers firing on all cylinders. That’s vital to our effectiveness and opponents will obviously know that so set out to stop them by whatever means they think will work. Knowing the danger and being able to prevent it are of course two different things.

Although Lincoln were good at not letting us play at the beginning, as the game wore on we started to play some effective attacking football helped by our most forward players at times dropping back into midfield to receive a pass with a defender at their back. Chances came but we didn’t score when we really should have in one instance in particular.

That said the visitors had already shown the way themselves with finishing that didn’t yell “play-offs here we come.” Captain Paudie O’Connor was unmarked at a corner but he headed the ball straight at Jamie Cumming via a bounce, with our keeper not totally convincingly patting it away.

Their next bad miss was another header. Freddie Draper failing to find the target from point blank range after Alex Mitchell had nodded on a high ball.

Tyler Goodrham had our first meaningful shot on goal. It was a proper incisive attack very much helped along the way by a quick first time square pass from Josh McEachran. TG’s turn to get his shot in gave the defender no chance of stopping him but his left footed effort from the edge of the area was straight at the keeper. Whenever we hear “straight at the keeper” there’s an implication that the man attempting to get the ball past him should have done better. That is indeed often the case but the role of the man between the sticks is regularly overlooked in this. Good reading of the game, great positional sense thus being in the right place at the right time. Lukas Jensen the Lincoln number one did all of that.

And talking of doing better, if Goodrham had played in Ruben Rodrigues instead of going for goal himself our chances of finding the back of the net would, I think, have been much higher. RR wasn’t particularly happy with our no.19’s decision making. Mark Harris too thought he should have been given the ball.

Goodrham failed to convert another chance after Leigh, having played a one-two, burst into the box and pulled the ball back. This time the option to shoot was totally correct but Jensen ticked all the goal-keeping boxes and kept it out. A very good save but almost a should have done better with the shot. Or perhaps I’m being too critical with the importance of the game having got to me.

Our biggest miss of all came from Harris from a ball whipped in by Owen Dale following a misplaced Lincoln pass.

So goal-less at the break. A draw at that stage being fair enough. The mood on the concourse was best described as tense.

I knew I’d regret it when I said “the referee is having a decent game”. It wasn’t the easiest of games to handle and within twenty minutes Lee Swabey had booked two visiting players. Probably should have been more and we could have seen a yellow card too. Lincoln were clearly intent on stopping us by whatever means. Sometimes a good old fashioned determined tackle, sometime a physical deliberate clattering into an opponent and sometimes an ankle tap with enough force to stop progress.  

Another of my half time thoughts concerned Rodrigues. In the second half the way he was playing he could either create something with a sublime piece of skill – although the pace of the game was such that he couldn’t showcase his talents which are seen to best effect in calmer waters – or lose the ball and cost us.

At the restart Lincoln went for us and within two minutes had the lead. Swabey gave a penalty against Rodrigues and Daniel Mandroiu converted straight down the middle. Never a spot kick. Two players going for the ball and our man got there first. On such an error by an official games turn. Lincoln now had something to hang on to.

I’d like to think that if there was VAR at our level the decision would have been reversed but with “this clear and obvious error” yardstick I wouldn’t hold my breath as they look after their own.

From here on we didn’t get much of a football match. Game management it’s called. All teams do it but there are various levels and ways of executing it. By the end Lincoln had clocked up 7 yellow cards and Oxford four. Three of the total of eleven came in a four minute spell in added time. I’ve never wanted cards waved around willy nilly but if Swabey had taken that approach earlier we would have had a better chance of getting our game going. As it was the Imps were clever in sharing around the fouls and the cards. Or was it that Swabey was reluctant to give any player a second yellow and therefore red?

Reluctant or not he did give one in the 83rd minute when Dylan Duffy, who was a very early replacement for the injured Reeco Hackett-Fairchild, got his second yellow. I have to say I thought he was very unfortunate and had won the ball. Same call from Swabey as for the penalty. Duffy had though been attempting to pull Marcus Browne back before the robust challenge.

We huffed and puffed a bit towards the end but didn’t really look like getting the point which would have meant so much. Our free-kicks and corners, of which we had eight, lacked quality delivery. We needed someone to step up and be a hero. That didn’t come about. No one hit their recent heights and one or two were a bit disappointing.

The signalled six added minutes seemed well under what was justified. It was 90 plus 7 when the final whistle went but I reckon that the ball couldn’t have been in play for much more than a couple of minutes in that time. It was the usual so long to get the ball back into play and white shirts going down at every opportunity. We knew that was going to happen after every corner we had. Hold the head and what choice does the referee have? Des Buckingham was unhappy that there wasn’t longer tacked on. When he remonstrated with the fourth official he was told that if a player goes down injured and the physio doesn’t come on to give them treatment no additional time is added on. That’s a new one for me and Des too. Nice to know. Plays into the hands of the cheats and exponents of the dark arts. The powers that be introduced the 30 second rule to prevent a player feigning injury if they received treatment to stop time wasting. Time must be added on to cover all stoppages. Football is 90 minutes plus whatever but should we now be thinking within that there should be a minimum amount of time in each half when the ball has to be in play? 

On reflection, on another day, this could have gone our way. We didn’t concede from open play. Cameron Brannagan played over half an hour and didn’t appear to suffer any ill effects. It’s still totally in our hands. We’re two points above Lincoln even after this. For all the triumphalism in the away section I bet they’d swap their position for ours, losing but having more points.

The only two teams who can realistically catch us after this are Lincoln and Blackpool. Stevenage, our visitors on Friday, are six behind us with an inferior goal difference of 12. Some of us had kept saying “they won’t go away”. Wrong. They have. They’ve only picked up 8 points from their last 10 games but under Steve Evans we know that we’ll likely get another spoiler. Oh, hang on. Evans has gone away too. Back to Rotherham for his second spell as manager there.

Big question, how will the Stevenage players react now he’s gone? Relieved? Rudderless ship? Will they relax, particularly as they’ve basically got nothing to play for and produce good football and test us that way? I somehow can’t see them being as up for it and aggressive as Lincoln were.

One never can tell how a game is going to pan out which makes this sport so gripping.

As long as tiredness of leg and mind isn’t a factor I expect us to win our next game. We’ll then be able to relax on Saturday afternoon and follow the progress of Blackpool v Barnsley. The Tangerines could quite easily win their remaining two fixtures. Then there’s Lincoln at Cheltenham who are scrapping at the bottom. The Robins are on very poor form but some bookies (and they are no fools) are offering 5/4 on a Lincoln win which I think is very generous.

Yes, never can tell.

PLANNING APPLICATION FOR THE NEW STADIUM AT THE TRIANGLE

Many of you reading this will already have made comments no doubt but if you have not it cannot be stressed enough that it is absolutely vital for the future of OXFORD UNITED F.C that we get a new stadium built at the Triangle. If you’ve not done so please take a few minutes to contact Cherwell District Council and ask family and friends to do so too. That’s if they are in support of course.

It is easy to get fatigued filling in surveys etc. and people can get confused but this is the planning application. A major hurdle that has to be overcome.

The deadline to make formal comments in support of the scheme is 21st April. Very little time left and numbers matter.

This is covered on the OUFC website at https://www.oufc.co.uk/news/2024/april/stadium-update–oxford-united-needs-you/

And I’ve lifted this from OxVox:

Below is a link to the council planning site that will allow residents of Oxfordshire to comment on the application. This is our chance to comment on the full application and to add our voice. Make no mistake WE are key stakeholders in this project and our voice matters.

Below also are details of how you can contact the council and some simple points that may help you frame your response if you are unsure of the process.

This is the link to the planning register entry for the stadium planning application:

https://planningregister.cherwell.gov.uk/Planning/Display/24/00539/F

To write your comments, go to the above URL and click ‘Comment on this application’. There is a limit of 32,000 characters in the box for comments. Alternatively, you can upload a PDF file containing your comments.

We have made a few notes on our website HERE to lend a hand to anyone looking for a little help.

https://oxvox.org.uk/writing-to-cdc/

PLEASE NOTE

• Anyone connected to the club should absolutely take this chance to comment here. Numbers matter and it would be a travesty if we are drowned out by a small but active minority.

• Kidlington locals are massively important in this process, so if you live in the Kidlington/North Oxford or surrounding areas then know that your response will be even more important.

• Sending in your comments is great, but following that up by talking to others and getting them to comment too, particularly Kidlington locals who support a community hub, will take our responses to another level.

• Make your response individual, personal and concise. We hope to have thousands flooding in so try to keep them focused but speak from the heart.

This is a once in a lifetime chance for us as supporters to influence the future of our club in such a positive and meaningful way.

Don’t put it off until tomorrow.

 Click the link

Fill out the consultation

Get others to do the same

We have an amazing group of supporters and the numbers attending and watching the fans forum show how active, engaged and passionate you are.

Time to put that to work.

Thank you as always and as always….. COYY!

Paul Peros

Chairman

OxVox

COLIN BARSON’S ANALYSIS OF PETERBOROUGH UNITED’S FINANCES

(Intro by me: It’s been a very strange season so in keeping with this here’s the Peterborough finances. The Lincoln finances will be in the Stevenage FV. Stevenage finances – who knows? Possibly where you’d expect them to be or held back for our home leg of the play-offs.) 

I’ve often heard people compare us to Peterborough, stating that we’re similar sized clubs, with similar operating models, and similar potential. Furthermore, it’s been said that they’re more successful than us with their operating model, and we should look to them for what we could achieve.

Although there are certain elements of these comparisons that I agree with, there are others that I do not. Peterborough entered the league in a blaze of glory in 1960/1961 season, two years before us. They had dominated the Midland League (no, me neither) and had some good FA Cup runs, bringing them to national prominence and eventually getting voted into the league. They went straight through Division Four, as champions, but they never really pushed on from there, and were back in Division Four seven years later. Since then they’ve shuffled between the third and fourth tiers for all but six seasons, which have been spent in the Championship. These six seasons comprise two seasons in the 1990s, one season in 2010, two seasons in 2012 and 2013 and one season in 2022. Their finishing positions have been 10th, 24th, 24th, 18th, 22nd, and 22nd respectively.

During these seasons in the Championship their highest average attendance was two years ago when they averaged 10,088. In the other five seasons they averaged between 7,500 and 9,000. I firmly believe we would average more than that, even with the current stadium restrictions, and considerably more in our new home. They’ve had several seasons of sub 4,000 averages and two seasons of sub 3,000. This is something we’ve never done, even when in the Conference. Furthermore, they’ve never taken the kind of crowds that we have taken to Wembley, and only last week could only muster 22,000/23,000 for their EFL Trophy Final, about 10,000 fewer than we have previously taken. The reason I’m labouring these figures is to illustrate that I don’t believe they have the core support that we have, when not doing very well, and neither do they have the potential that we have when having relative success. This season their average is close to, but just below ours, and that has been bolstered by Peterborough giving a 3,800 allocation to the likes of Portsmouth and Derby.

OK, enough attendance nerdishness, and onto the finances. The figures from the table below are from Peterborough’s 2022 season in the Championship, so present a slightly skewed picture. The figures put them high on the list of turnover and expenditure too, so I looked at their 2023 accounts (where they were in League One) to get a more balanced view. These figures show, as expected, a lower turnover figure of £10.5m and a further £3.5m from player trading, both still pretty good for League One though. Their player wages were lower at £7.7m but they still managed to lose £3.5m.

Peterborough have long held a reputation as a club that is very successful at unearthing promising young players, particularly from non-league, and particularly strikers, and then selling those players on for a profit. It’s a reputation that is almost synonymous with the larger than life Barry Fry, (more on him later) who holds a (sort of) Director of football role at the club. It’s a reputation that’s well earned, although possibly slightly exaggerated in how profitable it is. Over the last five seasons Peterborough have shown a player trading profit of approximately £15m in total, which is pretty good, but we ourselves in the five years between season 2016/17 and 2020/21 sold players to exactly the same value. I often think they’re better at achieving a good selling price than us, but maybe I’ve been doing OUFC a disservice?

Peterborough currently have a negative equity position of £15.9m, most of which is owed to the club owner Darragh MacAnthony, similar again to ourselves. The club has been through a few ownership ups and downs in recent years, and although MacAnthony has constantly been reported as the owner, there have been other characters also involved. A few years ago, the club were looking at moving to a new stadium, on the opposite side of the river to their current home, and MacAnthony sought funding assistance with this. He ended up with a couple of Canadians Jason Neale and Randy Thompson. Through the usual spider’s web of companies Neale and Thompson took a 50% stake in the club, meaning MacAnthony no longer had majority control. They paid only £2.5m for the stake and loaned the club a further £3m as part of the deal. Among these companies were Kelgary Sports and Entertainment, and OKR Financial, which they founded in 2016. Kelgary are registered on the other side of the Atlantic and provided finance to the club, mostly through OKR Financial. This was in the form of loans at eye watering interest rates as high as 18%!

The business relationship ended abruptly in 2022 when OKR’s investors accused Neale of making unauthorised loans from OKR to Kelgary and other businesses. Neale denied any wrong-doing, but he was forced out of OKR while recovery agents were brought in to chase those loans, including ones made to Kelgary and Peterborough’s stadium company subsidiary. Following this OKR sent a demand to the club for repayment of its loan, which had been accruing compound interest at that punitive rate of 18%, and subsequently it seized the Peterborough United shares owned by Neale and Thompson, when a Canadian court ruled that Kelgary owed the fund Can$24.7m (£14.5m). That court ruling came shortly after OKR had put the stadium subsidiary, London Road Peterborough Properties Ltd, into receivership. Since then, the club’s rent for playing at the venue goes directly to the fund and local council, the latter as part of a repayment plan for historic rent arrears.

MacAnthony has now reached agreement to buy back the 50% held by Neale and Thompson and is once again the majority shareholder of the club, with the re-negotiated loans being his responsibility.

So, to finish, a little Barry Fry anecdote. If anyone has seen him on TV and thought “this bloke’s barking mad” well, that’s exactly what he’s like in the flesh! He’s a lovely character, real old school, as mad as a box of frogs, and larger than life. There are so many stories I could tell, but the one I have chosen relates to the Covid times. It was the period where fans were still not allowed at games, but some officials and directors could attend under controlled conditions. These rules, as ridiculous as it now sounds, were that in the Boardroom we had to wear a face mask, unless we were eating or talking, upon which we could take it off. However, while watching the game, even though we were out in the open air, and socially distanced, the mask had to stay on at all times.

I was in conversation with Barry and one of Peterborough’s Directors at the time, a guy called Bob Symns. Bob was heading up their proposed stadium move, and I had many conversations with him and found him really helpful with advice on our own stadium plans. As we were talking, we didn’t need our masks on, and Barry had put his on top of his head, with the elastic strap behind his ears. As kick off approached the buzzer went off to let us know it was time to go out for the game. Barry started rummaging around in his pockets looking for his mask, muttering and swearing to himself as he did so. He went over to his table looking for it and came back saying “This does my f*****g nut in, where have I put that f*****g thing?” I looked at Bob, and he shook his head and raised his eyebrow, as if to say don’t say anything. Barry carried on getting more and more wound up, before after about five minutes (but it seemed much longer!) he put his hand on his head and realised that’s where his mask was. “You f*****g w*****s, you f*****g bunch of c***s. You shouldn’t take the piss out of an old man” he exclaimed as we all laughed our heads off. Every time I saw him after that he would say something along the lines of being glad that we don’t have to wear those f*****g masks anymore! Brilliant bloke, they don’t make them like him anymore.

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