Fan’s View – Mansfield

Article by Paul Beasley Monday, November 18th, 2013  

WILDER IN

Well what do you expect? It was an away game and one in which we produced quite possibly our most entertaining football of the season, particularly in the second half. It was an absolute joy to watch.

But before I go any further it is only fair to hang a big caveat above this week’s view. At half time I questioned where the eight minutes added time had come from. I was helped out: “the injuries, bookings, the sending off”. “What sending off?” says I. In my defence the two mates I was sat with to the right of the goal where there was plenty of empty seats around us had missed it too. As none of us were the day’s designated driver we had made the most of the beer in the Railway Inn. That’ll be it.

A HUNDRED AND COUNTING

But we didn’t miss Beano completing his century of Oxford United goals; that just wouldn’t have been on. Amazingly there were a significant number of our supporters who had gone to Field Mill who did miss this. Each to their own but I’d never give queuing for a burger priority over watching my team. If our performance had been awful I could perhaps understand this a bit more but we’d been rather good. In fact I was fairly confident we would get another goal in the minutes left between the equaliser and the half time break. I have a witness.

So, it’s a massive slap on the back for Beano, a club legend who just keeps going and who just wants to play football and score goals but, so it seems, only for Oxford United. At times some of our fanbase, me included, have questioned whether his technical ability was sufficient for League football. If I ever start to ponder such matters again I’ll just look at his scoring record and quickly move on.

THE GAME

There were a couple of brief spells when Mansfield looked threatening and Clarkey had to pull off one or two very good saves but we were well in control for the vast majority of this game. I think the home crowd knew this and from where I was sat rarely seemed to get behind their side with much fervour.

We looked like we had goals in us throughout the entire game. With Ryan Williams still on wonderful form and Sean Rigg back on form we played with width and proper attacking intent. Every outfield player performed very well as we found space, moved the ball about confidently and were able to dissect the Stags’ backline with incisive angled passes. Goals two and three were very well worked and for the first Riggy showed that poachers instinct that isn’t always evident in our ranks.

Dave Kitson’s class, which shone through yet again, was matched by his work rate. And I must also praise Asa Hall who slotted in seamlessly for the injured Andy Whing on 26 minutes.

TOP OF THE LEAGUE

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Passionate and supportive away following

“Top of the league and we’re shit at home” sang the little group stood a few rows down from us. Yes indeed. We really are in a very strange place at the moment. It’s something I’ve never experienced in all my years following the team. How can we be top yet so depressingly poor at home? It’s a subject that has been and will be debated in very heated fashion over and over again. There’s not one obvious answer. Obviously. It’s weird that people can still make a strong case for a change of manager as we sit looking down on all other teams in the league. No way, it would be madness. But next Saturday we have a home league game and I may well have a different view being spewed out along with a barrage of frustration and anger. It’s a funny old passionate game, a game that is confusing many of us.

In this crazy season five points still cover the top twelve teams so it won’t take much to propel a side on a good run to the summit or a poor run to cause a plummet. If Mansfield had won on Saturday they would have been just two points behind us now. As it is they are in 15th place. They have an identical home record to us: won two, drawn two and lost three.

So we’re not the only outfit who can’t get their act together on home turf. Chatting to a Mansfield fan in the pub before the game he thought they would lose. His pessimistic outlook, whilst supported by the Stags recent results, was a bit of a surprise but rather reassuring nonetheless.

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Home fans lacking passion and support

So we’re not the only fans who go to home games on a bit of a downer fearing the worst. Perhaps this explains my perception that the home fans never truly got behind their team. At least in our first season back we were grateful to be there and accepted that Rome would never be built in a day. It took a bit longer for us to become disillusioned with days out at our, I mean Firoz Kassam’s, three sided stadium.

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Field Mill – another three sided stadium

For what it’s worth, going in to the game Mansfield had only picked up three points from the last 18 and had not scored in the previous four matches.

Also for what it’s worth, the average ratio of home points to away points won in League Two is one to 0.84 but for us it is one to 2.22.

CONCERN

It wouldn’t be like me to sign off without a note of caution. It goes without saying that next Saturday’s game is a concern because of where it is being staged but before then we’ve got a trip to the North East and our injuries are once again mounting.

A look at our bench shows that we will be down to the very bare bones if, as seems likely, Whing and possibly Deane Smalley can be added to Alfie Potter and Jake Wright as absentees. Kitson is probably close to another suspension. There are areas of the pitch where we have no cover and we must remember that Williams and Hall are only loanees whose time to return to their parent clubs is getting ever nearer. Deals for extensions may well already be in the offing. I’m hoping a cup run, including TV money, can help on this count. And whilst I’m being madly optimistic for a moment and forgetting our large debt, that we’ll end up with an extra bit to help us strengthen further. It will probably be required if we are to have a fair chance of staying ahead of that massive chasing pack.

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