By Jon Harries
One step forward, two steps back, and that’s what it feels like at the moment. Two performances in four days, and polar opposites apart. Tuesday night exposed our weaknesses again, particularly from halfway through the first half.
The Dons travelled to the Kassam Stadium looking for that elusive first away win in 17 League One matches. Oxford United, bottom of the league, were looking for a reaction after a couple of poor results recently, and in all honesty, they couldn’t have wished for a better start. Rob Atkinson bringing the ball out of defence and playing to Marcus McGuane who fired a hopeful ball into the danger zone. The ball via a missed clearance from Cargill found its way to Matty Taylor who couldn’t miss from less than six yards out.
Credit the Dons though who responded within five minutes. Daniel Harvie afforded the freedom of Oxfordshire put in a superb cross that found Cameron Jerome, who again couldn’t miss, that’s two in two for the big man. Jerome and Morris were working well together in the first half. Oxford though changed tactics in the first half, high pressing and getting in ours faces. The second half began like the first a really with a soft goal conceded. A free kick played into the box, Nicholls came then stopped, and not for the first time this season and Long unmarked in the box headed home. Oxford should have scored more, with Shodipo missing a golden opportunity after a mix up at the back but made up for it by scoring ultimately the winner pouncing on another mistake by Houghton passing out from the back sending a curling shot in off the post from just outside the box. Ben Gladwin took it upon himself to score a great consolation goal but in truth it was the right result, and yet again proof that possession doesn’t get you points.
Saturday’s opposition Blackpool are also struggling at the start of the season. Fancied by many to have a good season, they are really struggling for form. A solitary win at home to Swindon and a point away at Crewe leaves them a point and a place behind the Dons. Tuesday night against Charlton was another tight affair although having James Husband sent off after two minutes doesn’t help. Charlton themselves were down to ten later in the half, Ben Purrington given his marching orders later in the first half for a second yellow card offence. It took one moment of magic by Charlton to win it, a move started and finished by Chuks Aneke being enough for the away side to take three points. Although most results have been tight the Tangerines have in truth struggled throughout the season for any consistency. (Sounds familiar doesn’t it), it’s a massive game for both teams as they try to kick start their seasons.
Blackpool actually have a very attacking squad IMHO but so far haven’t been hitting the target enough and, in many ways, and you can strike comparisons with us, not just upfront but all round the pitch. Keeper Chris Maxwell in goal has played at a higher level with Championship team Preston North End, but at the moment the Welsh International is conceding on average two goals per game.
Michael Nottingham and Marvin Ekpiteta are new to the club and settling in still, but signs are there that they are starting to gel even if the results don’t reflect that and Luke Garbutt playing at L1 level is surprising given his ability, surely sooner or later he will influence Pool into better things. Oliver Sarkic and Daniel Kemp (on loan from West Ham United) are youthful and expressive midfield with the experience of Grant Ward vital in the side. Up top Bez Lubala, Gary Madine and Keshi Anderson should get goals at this level.
The opposing player in focus for me though is CJ Hamilton. If that name sounds familiar, then you’re spot on. He was part of the infamous Mansfield or Mansfailed side that ultimately lost out in the “Winner Takes it All” game in L2 (18/19) against us. Skilful, direct, and tricky this could be the biggest test for Daniel Harvie so far. He has an eye for goal with three in his account so far and will certainly be the one to watch.
Predicted Line Up
Poole – Williams – Keogh – Lewington – Harvie
Thompson – Kasumu – Fraser
Morris – Jerome
Going back to the success against Gillingham, Kasumu must go back in his most effective position, plus Keogh must return at the back making us stronger and less suicidal playing out from the back. Hoping Sorensen may get a place on the bench to add some creativity if needed, but it is a mystery how he has not been seen or mentioned in the last couple of games, and on that subject we have no info injuries or other team news.
Blackpool are there for the taking if we match the Gillingham performance.
I predict a 3-1 away win and ironically will mean first away win since the last time we visited Bloomfield Road, Morris, Jerome, and Fraser with the goals.
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