Bury 0 Oxford 1
by The Boy Holty
Its funny how football can suddenly go and crap on you from a great height. After four consecutive wins, no goals conceded in three, fifth in the league and on the back of an outstanding performance against Luton, not many people would have expected anything other than a fairly comfortable win against a team from the bottom part of the league. Even an Oxford fan said we'd win 5-0.
Oxford, however, had other ideas and to give them fair credit their tactics were spot on. Bury were fairly poor but I've seen plenty worse. They didn't give Bury time to settle and kept the danger men like Danny mayor and Nicky Adams very quiet.
As the afternoon progressed, it was clear that it was always going to be a game of few opportunities and the best chance of the game fell to Kelvin Etuhu early in the second half when he got on the end of a wonderful move and knocked it tamely at their keeper. A few minutes later and an excellent glancing header from Danny Rose was very well saved by their keeper.
That's when it all started going wrong. Adam El-Abd was sent off for a second soft booking and some players started squaring up to each other. Shortly after and following a clumsy challenge on Mayor which had gone unpunished (cue more handbags), Oxford striker (and former Gigg Lane loanee) Danny Hylton took a tumble in the area and the weak referee, who had long since lost control of the game pointed to the spot.
Step up Mr Nicholas Pope, the man who has made such a difference and he flung himself low to his right to keep out Hylton's penalty. That seemed to spur on the Bury players and fans alike and for a full three minutes we looked like getting a grip on the game.
However with just five or so minutes left, an Oxford striker broke free, went round Pope and finished well to give Oxford a well deserved win.
It doesn't feel as much of a disaster as such home defeats as Newport or Dagenham, more a blip, with Mansfield (our next opponents) likely to bear the brunt of Bury's frustration, but its annoying as three of the top four all dropped points so it was an opportunity missed.
It was another decent crowd again (3645) but the day was all Oxford's as they nullified any Bury threat and earned themselves a valuable win.
We need to get back on another winning run if we want to challenge for automatic promotion. There are eleven games left and I would think we need to win seven or eight of those at least in order to make a top three finish. In all likelihood we all need to make a note of the play off dates. The final is on May 23rd - and its a 5.30pm kick off which once again shows exactly how much the football league cares about the fans, but that's a rant for another day.