Another Quality perfoirmance
After six draws on the trot we arrived at the Kassam with hopes high based more on this being a lucky ground for us in recent visits rather than current form and it seemed in many ways a case of possible deja vu with Oxford being on a fantastic run with cup successes as has been the case in our last visit. After the excellent performance at Bolton the question was could we get a bit of consistency going and produce more of that excellent game the other night?
The team sheet showed a couple of changes which was no real surprise and a return for Lee Brown and possibly more surprising James Clarke being chosen ahead of Leadbitter at right back. Luke james was given a start in place of the injured Ellis Harrison and Byron Moores goal at Bolton was rewarded with a start over Montano. Have to say that I would not disagree with any of the selections yesterday and the answer as to whether we could match that huge performance at Bolton was a resounding yes as we took the game to Oxford from the off and Ollie Clarke produced a flying save from the keeper in the first few minutes. There appears to be a new found confidence from our players that have been brought about by seven games unbeaten and a great reduction in not only the number of goals conceded but also in respect of restricting the opposition to very few chances. We are now passing the ball with conviction and our midfield as a unit are starting to impose themselves on the opposition from the first whistle. No longer is it Lines doing the offensive and Ollie Clarke doing the defensive but each trying to outdo the other at both qualitiers. Add to this the fantastic energy of Stuart Sinclair with not a small amount of skill being shown and you have the perfect combination. The quality of Ollie Clarkes sublime finish for the first goal was soon followed by a rare goal from Stu after a well worked move and we were in a driving seat that for all Oxfords endeavours was not going to be taken off of us. In truth there were only two worrying moments over the 90 minutes, the first when they hit the post at 0-2 and the second just before half time when Lumley produced a fine save to tip over an accurate free kick from a central position. I will user the individual players comments to cover a game which thankfully answered the title to one of my recent match reports- when will we win again?
Another top class all round performance. Didn’t have a lot to do but what he did was top notch and his control of his area and handling is commendable for one so young and inexperienced. Very important save from a free kick in the last minute of the first half as a goal then would have given Oxford the confidence to approach the second half.
J. Clarke 7
Did everything that could have been asked of him and importantly was first to the ball that came back off the post before the waiting Oxford player could tap it home. Often looks so awkward and yet rarely gets beaten by the winger and I think his ability to cover both full back positions and if necessary the central defenders as well makesd him well worth retaining for next season.
Back to his very best and the partnership with Sweeney is really blossoming well and one of the key reasons why we have got rid of the reputation for being easy meat defensively for the opposing sides. Tom did not give the Oxford forwards any room and won most of his battles both in the air and on the ground.
Man mountain again! He is the dominant centre half we have been looking for and his mere presence has helped Tom Lockyer to rediscover his form. As a partnership they are immense and another clean sheet was well deserved.
Played well defensively which was very important given the opposition. Deservedly booked for taking too long over throw ins after a warning and I do wish he would improve his throw ins which too often go straight to an opposing player. I actually think that Bob Harris is the better player as regards passing the ball but all round Lee is a good full back at this level and superior all round fitness gives him the edge. At least now there is competition there and this can only be good for Lee himself to keep him on his toes.
O. Clarke 9
What a goal!! It was so good that at first I automatically thought it was Billy Bodin who had scored it. The turn to beat his player and the quality of the exquisite finish was football at its finest. His overall performance was of the same level as he drove forward at every opportunity and showed his intentions from very early on with another cracking shot that brought a good save from the Oxford keeper. I really think that his improvement has been astronomical and something which I just didn’t think was possible and he would now be one of the first names on my teamsheet. Well done Ollie.
Now gets his foot in a lot more than he used to and does as much defensive work as anybody else. His tackling will never be great but his positioning and ability to hold on to the ball and then take it forward with confidence makes him for me one of the best midfielders in this division and the signs are now that Ollie Clarke is fast becoming the same sort of player with the added ingredient of being a top ball winner.
Sinclair 9.5 MOM
Another great all round performance with the added bonus of a goal. It had to be something special to get Man of the Match yesterday because ; like at Bolton; there were many great performances but Stu stood out from start to finish with his willingness to chase everything and close down opponents who without doubt if given time could impose themselves on a game. Took his goal well and it seems that at the moment we have found the perfect combination of Ollie Clarke, Lines and Sincs and the key factor is that they are all playing at the top of their game.
Without reaching the heights he still showed great skill on the ball and is a danger whenever he picks up the ball anywhere near the goal. Has the ability to do great things and for that ability alone he needs to be out there where he always needs to be marked and for that reason gives other players the space to attack.
Ran and ran without being totally convincing. Like Gaffney he needs a goal but for me he looks like a young player just coming into the game and lacks the physical strength to really impose himself on some of the tough defenders you come up against at this standard. I think he is worth persevering with provided we continue to provide a service on the ground and not lumped up to him at head height where he will stand no chance whatsoever, Who knows how he will progress if he scores a goal? Lets hope we can find out soon.
Seems to be coming into form and shows an intelligent footballer with a bit of skill and pace. Worked hard throughout and looked dangerous going forward but tired towards the end. It looks like we do have a good player here after all and I can see the possibility that we can play 4-4-2 every week with him and Montano fighting for the left side and maybe replacing each other in the latter stages.
Gave a reasonable performance in a short time on the field and nearly scored one of his specials when dribbling into the box across the goal but just delayed his final shot too long. He really needs a goal but is a useful player to be able to bring on.
In a short period on the pitch he showed in one flash of skill what a good player he is when he brought a ball down from the heavens (or Lumleys high kick!!) under instant control. At last in him, Moore and Bodin I think we have wingers who can provide competition for each other and enable us to become an even more attacking side.
Good to see Manse back but not on long enough to really judge whether he is worth another years contract. I think probably this will be his last season in the quarters but he has been a great influence on our club and IMO it would be great if he could be given a role within the club as he is a great ambassador and seems to have a huge influence over the team spirit.
Another sell out crowd and the atmosphere was fantastic to the extent that it seemed like a home game.
Lenient but IMO one of the best we have had and great to see a few bookings for time wasting even if they were to our players. Was not fooled by some of the antics of the Oxford players and tried to keep the game being played at a good pace which gave us a very entertaining and competitive game.
Oxford 5 This is based on their performance yesterday but I often think how much of the opponents mark is down to how we play because their recent form and success (the same as Bolton’s) say they are much better teams than their performance showed. I understand that we were interested in Dunkley earlier in the season and if we can’t sign Sweeney then I reckon he would be a good alternative as very strong in the air. The play acting of some of Oxfords players has also influenced my marking and makes nit even more pleasing that we beat them fair and square.
Dc What can I say? He made a few changes again and they all came off. Tactician supreme- in fact everything that the red half of Bristol can only dream about!! and may it long stay that way. It really is a tough task to get in the Play Offs and to be honest I don’t see it happening but nobody can deny that it is still on DC’s mind as we all know that Darrell has great belief in both his own and the teams ability and whatever happens now it has been a great season but to do it will take a run of epic proportions as surely it will need over 70 points which with 10 games remaining would mean at least 7 victories. It is not impossible but it has to be said very unlikely.
So we move on to another tough assignment next week in the form of Southend who come to the Mem on the back of a long run of success but we need fear no one on our own present form and the fact we have come through such a difficult run of fixtures against mainly top sides unbeaten. It should be a great game and who knows just how far we can go this season- We can still dream!!! UTG