Oxford 0-1 Southend – JPT

11 Nov

SOME games are so bizarre they leave me wondering how on earth I should be feeling. Ecstatic? Embarrassed? Angry? Apologetic? Joyful? Jealous? Not sure. But at least we won.

Southend made it to the semis of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, but we lost a key player in the process and put in a torrid showing during a game we should have won at a canter.

It was my third visit to the Kassam Stadium, which would actually be a nice ground if they’d remembered to put up a fourth stand. Instead it’s a pretty soulless place, but there are certainly worse stadiums in the Football League, and their fans have always seemed pretty friendly.

After getting into Oxford station I fortunately got a lift to the ground as it’s a good few miles outside the city centre, and enjoyed a Chinese buffet in the nearby leisure complex  – which certainly didn’t feel like pre-football food, but it was good stuff.

There was a good away crowd of 317 Shrimpers and we made a decent noise throughout the game. It all started very nicely when Oxford keeper Wayne Brown was sent off for handling outside his area and their midfielder Asa Hall had to go in goal. His first job was to pull the resulting Ryan Hall free-kick out of the back of the net, and the Blues were 1-0 up.

But that was as easy as it got. Oxford shut up shop and did everything they could to stop us getting a shot in. Their “keeper” Hall even made some decent saves from Ryan Leonard and Kane Ferdinand, which left our fans thinking this was going to be a little more tricky than first thought.

We got progressively worse throughout the second part of the first half and were pretty pleased when the half-time whistle blew. But it wasn’t much better after the break – and the game descended into a farce 10 minutes after the restart.

An awful tackle by Oxford’s Simon Heslop on Ferdinand resulted in a mass brawl that saw our Anthony Grant and their Tom Craddock sent off. Before the fisticuffs kicked off, it was clear Blair Sturrock was having an awful game (worse than usual) and he was hauled off soon after the brawl for Liam Dickinson.
He couldn’t do much better, and the last 30 minutes were full of bad passes, poor communication and players not seeming to be bothered about going forward.

Fortunately Bilel Mohsni was still up for it, and made a vital block on Jon Franks’s effort in the 76th minute, but that was Oxford’s only major chance.

It wasn’t as if we needed to play defensively against a team with nine men, but because we didn’t kill them off it left the game very open until the referee relieved the Blues faithful by blowing for full time.

So that was that, and Southend were through – only two teams, or three games, away from Wembley. It also improved the unbeaten run to 11 wins in 12 games, which can’t be argued with. But our lot never do things the easy way!

Mark Duell


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