nPower League Two
OUFC 1 Cheltenham Town 1
Well, that was alright, wasn't it?
No victory to crow about this morning and honours even over the two legs of the first 'Cotswolds Derby' season in 5 years. But another great team performance and things are looking tasty for the remainder of the season.
Another late start for myself for this one, only leaving London at noon for the drive up the M40. I've started to enjoy that drive of late, which I'm sure is in no small part thanks to our recent form on the pitch. It's a great feeling getting into the car and driving out of central London on a Saturday, towards the open green spaces of the shires. I always do a little "yaaay!" to myself whenever I go through Stokenchurch Gap and Oxfordshire opens up in front of me - such a wonderful presentation of our beloved county to the eyes. I also now know the position of every speed camera, every bend in the road and every traffic bottleneck between Tottenham Court Road and Blackbird Leys. Which is handy.
|Stokenchurch Gap: Majestic Gateway|
I like to get into the ground a little earlier these days, especially as I'm usually driving so can't cram pints in until 2.50pm in the Blackbird, so I was in my seat a good 30 minutes before kick off. I was thus witness to the sight of two dozen scantily-clad teenage girls prancing around in the centre circle as we were treated to a routine from Oxford Brookes' cheerleading squad.
Now, I'm not one to balk at the idea of a little pre-match entertainment, especially of the jiggling young bodies kind, but there is something about this Americanisation of pre-match entertainment that just doesn't work on a cold, grey day in England. I've been to many sporting venues in the States and Cheerleading is very much a welcome part of the furniture there - but it just seems slightly ridiculous at a League Two game of football, as echoes of 'get your tits out for the lads' ring around the ground, nearly drowning out the Britney Spears soundtrack.
|Cheerleaders: It didn't look like this.|
It's also a sign of my age that rather than join in the chant, I was tutting at the length of their skirts and thinking "They'll catch an awful chill in this weather."
Anyway, the game itself was a frustrating affair given our dominance for much of the 90mins, but I left the ground in rather high spirits, all things considered. It's easy to think of it as two points dropped rather than 1 gained, but you can't win every game and frankly if we continue to play such beautiful attacking football as that we will not drop too many more points this season.
My only concern is the leakiness at the back. Defending at set pieces and general sloppiness at times has meant we are conceding far too easily despite dominating matches. Someone said to me before the game on Saturday that they don't care how many goals we leak if we go and score at the other end - that they'd rather we played like Keegan's Newcastle and win every game 4-3.
Trouble is, Keegan's Newcastle didn't actually win anything. And although we are scoring goals, we are not putting away enough chances to score 3 or 4 in a game, so these defensive frailties are a slight concern. If we are serious about going up this year, we'll still need to grind out a few 1-0 victories along the way, and learn how to keep clean sheets.
Still, I don't want to sound all pessimistic as the performances of late have actually been top class on the whole and we should be very proud of the squad Wilder has now put together - it's working. His tinkering has seemed worth it, after all.
It IS working. And that is a very good thing indeed.