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Oxford United F.C. - Struggle to the Top

Started on 24 April 2014 by LFC
Latest Reply on 27 April 2014 by pompeyblue
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Lovely graphics, and not a bad pre-season :)

Batt: Oxford Return Was Close

Forest Green Rovers right back, Damian Batt, has revealed that he was in the final stages of contract talks with former club Oxford United prior to signing for the Skrill Premier club. The 28-year-old was only released by The U's in May, but they have since hired a new manager, Ray Houghton, and he clearly wanted to bring Batt back to The Kassam Stadium.

Batt spent five years with Oxford United between 2008 and 2013, and tells us that he has a special place in his heart for the club.

"I have to say I was gutted to leave Oxford. I love the club and I like to think that I was a major part of their side, so of course I was heartbroken when Chris Wilder refused to offer me a new contract. Ray Houghton contacted me at the weekend, and we got on well. I met with him on Sunday to discuss things face to face. But when it came down to the actual contract, that's where it fell apart. Ray seemed a great guy, but I wanted this much, he only wanted to give me this much, and neither of us could really see a way through it. I understand that they haven't got great wealth available to them, so I was happy to be let down for the sake of the club. I'm glad to be back in football with Forest Green, but Oxford will always be in my heart, and I'll be rooting for them this season. They seem to have built a good squad and I hope that this can help them out a lot this season."
Nice story mate, keep it up!

Houghton's Journal - August 2013

Myself and the boys weren't too worried about heading down to Fratton Park to face Pompey. Of course they'd just got relegated from the league above, but that deflated them, and I'm not sure they'd recovered. An early goal from James got us underway, and Alfie doubled the lead later on. I'm happy with how professional the lads were, and it was great to be able to end my first match as a manager on a high. Tom Lawrence, the boy on loan from Manchester United, put in a fantastic Man of the Match performance, and I hope that the signing continues to pay off.

I wasn't really expecting a win in the Capital One Cup against Charlton, so I was understandably impressed with the efforts from the lads to hold it out once James put us in front. Another tough draw in the next round, we've been drawn against Brighton, who are in the same league as Charlton. David Hunt, one of the new signings made by Chris Wilder before I joined, won Man of the Match. It felt great to hear the home support for the first time, and it was all too familiar - I hope I can get them singing louder over the next few years.

Back to the league in this game, and our winning streak continued. We got a very early goal thanks to Sean Rigg, but we were pegged back later on in the first half; the first goal conceded by the team under my management was Bury's equalizer. But I remained calm and confident. And then I could relax a little more. Ryan Williams, on loan from Fulham, scored a terrific free-kick from out wide to make it 2-1. He'd been great all game long, and had won Man of the Match come the final whistle, and if this carries on, I'll be contacting Fulham about keeping him for a bit longer. He is considered a bit of a hot prospect at Craven Cottage, and is in the Australia U21 squad, so it could be difficult.

Despite the scoreline, I was impressed with the mentality of the squad to keep it goalless after Andy Kellett, our on loan fullback was sent off. Although it was late in the game, Torquay had a flurry of chances, and could have scored any of them, if not for our defending and goalkeeping efforts. We also managed to get chances in but at the end of the day, neither side could take them. A little disappointing to draw, but our unbeaten run continues. Their captain, Aaron Downes, won the Man of the Match award.

This game was one that worried me. We just couldn't seem to find the net at all, from our many, many chances. I was beyond relieved when the deadlock was broken in the 74th minute by Sean Rigg, and then I turned all of the attention to defending the lead. We did so well - Wycombe managed to get in just three shots in the entire game, none of them on target. Jake Wright, one of the legends among the fans of the club, won the Man of the Match award for his defensive display, and rightly so. Our unbeaten run stretches to five.

Just like the Charlton game in the round before, I didn't expect to win at home to Brighton. And we didn't win. We fought bravely against the Championship side, but they were evidently too strong for us. They got an early goal, which demoralized the lads by the looks of it. I tried to gee them up at half time, but they looked glum still. The first loss of my managerial career, one that I'd expected to lose. I am just glad that it wasn't a league game that we'd lost. Their striker Will Buckley won the Man of the Match award.

The last game of the month saw us at home yet again, and another early goal from Dave Kitson, who, frankly, had been disappointing before this, got us off to a good start. Early goals seem to be becoming a trend for the team, but we can't just think that the game is won after we score. Jake Wright was forced off with an injury after seven minutes, and our lead began to look shaky after Johnny Mullins was sent off just before half time - the decision from the referee was awful, and the three match ban has since been rescinded, but I believe that the decision cost us a win. Two more substitutions were made at half time. The inevitable equalizer came three minutes after half time. In the 71st minute, I really began to worry. Another injury, this time to Sean Rigg, forced him off of the pitch, and with no substitutions left, we had to go down to nine men. I was so impressed with the boys for keeping it at 1-1 and earning a draw. Their captain, Jason Kennedy, won the Man of the Match award.

A solid start in the league, which I am thrilled with, sees us sitting in 4th place after the first five games. I'm hoping that we can push on next month.

Player Watch

  • Goalkeeper
  • - Ryan Clarke went three games without conceding, which was a big achievement. He doesn't seem like a player who will concede four or five goals often, and his proneness to injury hasn't been a factor so far. Dean Santangelo, the new signing, hasn't played yet, but has looked promising in training.

  • Defence
  • - Jake Wright and Johnny Mullins have been the standout centre back pairing. We've conceded very few, and they are key to this. Jake has been slightly better in my opinion, but he has been at the club for longer - Maybe Johnny needs to settle in a bit more. Michael Raynes has been solid when called upon. As for the fullbacks, Kellett has been fairly strong, but I was angry with him for getting sent off. He was distraught afterwards though, clear that he was angry with himself. Tom Newey and David Hunt have been equally strong.

  • Midfield
  • - In the centre, Nicky Wroe has been top notch. He's been winning balls left, right and centre, and his passing has been superb. He's only on loan from Preston, but I hope we can work something out to keep him longer. On the wings, I've been very impressed - Ryan Williams, Sean Rigg and Alfie Potter have been exceptional, but I've been left disappointed with the performances of Cristian Montaño, so I'm hoping that he doesn't carry on like this, otherwise I'll have to have words. As for the attacking midfielders, Tom Lawrence and Dave Kitson have been first class. I know I said I was disappointed with Kitson, but I was talking about his goalscoring - something I'm not expecting as much of in this position.

  • Strikers
  • - James Constable and Dave Kitson have both done quite well as lone strikers. James has done considerably better in the position, so for now, he'll remain first choice.
    Love the update style! Very good month for you, happy to see Lawerence doing well! Unlucky with the loss against Brighton but beating Charlton was such a good victory.
    Nice update style and a good start to the season :)

    Houghton's Journal - September 2013

    We were still unbeaten from the last month in the league, and with no cup competition to complicate matters, I felt positive. The month was mixed - it began with me feeling dismayed, and ended in pure joy for both myself and the lads. We got a bye through to the second round of the Johnstone's Paint Trophy, where we'll face Plymouth Argyle at home.

    To lose by this margin in our first league loss hurt a lot. Granted, Burton Albion are a very tough team at this level, but they weren't exactly performing exceptionally before this game. Ryan Clarke has to be praised though (the only player that I can praise), since, without him, it could so easily have been five or six goals to nil. I'd hoped that this wouldn't be continuous. Burton forward Adam McGurk won the Man of the Match award.

    We didn't have far to travel to face Cheltenham, but once again, I was left bitterly disappointed with the scoreline. Once again, Ryan did well, but the defending was a shambles - this is clearly something that I would have to put work into. It wasn't so much that we played badly in either of these two games, because we didn't. In fact, we dominated the two games, and could be considered unlucky to lose them. But we didn't take our chances, and the other teams did. James Constable has not been so impressive as he was last month, and this is something that needs to be addressed. Their experienced striker Jamie Cureton won the Man of the Match award.

    We'd dropped out of the playoff places, and we headed into our first home game of the month against The Spierites, with Chesterfield sitting one place above us. I can't say we played especially well, and were lucky to get the penalty that resulted in the winning goal, but I was relieved that we were back on track. I praise young Tom Lawrence for his composure from the spot, and he is turning out to be a good signing for the club. Their fullback, Drew Talbot, won the Man of the Match award, and maybe, on another day, had the rest of his team been in the right positions from his dangerous crosses, they could have got a result. I started Cristian Montaño up front for the first time, and he showed more promise than he did on the wing.

    One of the best performances this season so far. We couldn't find a way past a dangerous Hartlepool in the first half. I was aware that bringing James on could have risks, but I went ahead with it. He wasn't in the best form, but I had faith in him. And that faith paid off. Just two minutes into the second half, he scored to put us into the lead. With just under half an hour to play, he doubled the lead. I was thrilled both for him, and for myself, as if it hadn't paid off, I could have been a scapegoat for the draw or loss. He was, of course, the Man of the Match, and deservedly so. It was great to finish the month on a high.

    And so, despite the two losses, we move from 4th, up to 3rd, and I'm hoping that this doesn't end for us. We push on from here. Nothing else.

    A tough set of fixtures for next month, including a home tie against league leaders Southend United, but we do have the home advantage, and I think it's winnable. If we play as we did in the second half of the Hartlepool game, I think we can win all of our games.

    Player Watch

    Ryan Clarke has been outstanding for the club this month. He kept two clean sheets against two good sides, and if the defence had been better in the first two games of the month, it could have been four. He's made some outstanding saves for us, and the main reason why Dean [Santangelo] is out of the first team. I did bring Dean on for the last ten minutes against Hartlepool, however, although he didn't have much work to do.
    A decent month in all I guess, some disappointing defeats in there but hey, your in the automatic promotion places so it's not all too bad.
    Reasonable month, hopefully you can make the promotion push this year :)
    2014-04-27 10:35#172106 LFC : Myself and the boys weren't too worried about heading down to Fratton Park to face Pompey.

    How dare you? :P

    Pretty good start to the season however hopefully you can have an even better month next month and make a real push for the title!
    Nice updates btw :D

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