By John Dinneen
18th Jan 2017.
An away day at Birmingham will ask questions of any team. Not only as it is a testing day of football but because they will be asked to fill out extensive and suspiciously similar questionnaire forms for the new year of budding brummy psychologists. In return for their questionnaires the blues would receive video footage of a game everyone would rather just forget.
The caveats to this pessimistic report are the following 1) it is testament to how far this group of players have come that even after winning away from home and topping the league at that the Blues come away disappointed. And 2) as it is the duty, nay the punishment, of the “dick of the day” winner to write the match report it is no surprise it is often a begrudging account.
The blues started complacently and Mickey's pre-match encouragement about our quality over the past week in training rang in the ears more as sickly sympathy than any genuine confirmation of our ability. The game changed, however, when Alex Urwin was spotted roaming the vast plains of space on the left side of the pitch. It was a familiar sight off the pitch- the wing back’s lonely, unacknowledged wandering in desperate search for some of the action- and the team have become accustomed to helping him in any way we can, but to try now and involve him in football terms was a different matter.
Nevertheless, once on the ball Urwin proved a serious threat and forced the opening goal for the blues with a devastating cross that was turned into the Birmingham goal by their own player. 0-1.
The rest of the half was uneventful: some tackles, some throw ins, some shots, passes, running, an emphatic penalty decision, a missed penalty (guess who...), and then everyone welcomed the half time whistle.
The second half saw the Blues spurn more chances as Birmingham grew more confident and threatening. If it wasn't for the resilience of the back three, Moneke, Wade and Hale, and the support assured to them from Brown and Wicker in midfield, the blues strike force would have regretted their missed opportunities all the more bitterly.
With 20 mins on the clock and only a precarious one-goal lead, coach Mickey's Lewis decided it was time to change the strike force, taking off Dinneen and Feeney for Thelen and Somerville. The Birmingham defenders were visibly worried that Oxford might have brought on strikers that could in fact put the ball in the net. Their fears were justified as Dom Thelen doubled the lead from the spot with 15 minutes to go.
Never wanting to make it easy for themselves, the blues conceded a penalty and a goal minutes after scoring but saw out the game to win another crucial three points. The blues sit pretty at the top of the league on the day the Varsity match was finally confirmed- Sunday 19th of March for the first ever double header varsity match at The Hive, home to Barnet FC. If the blues keep up winning ways between then and now it is set to be one impressive season indeed.
Your DOD- John Dinneen