Date: 1 April 2000
The end of the season blues are well and truly upon us now. After an afternoon of standing on an increasingly chilly terrace, at times in pouring rain, I have to wonder why I bother.
Certainly the teams didn't seem very bothered; neither Oxford nor Bournemouth seemed to view the attendance of paying supporters as any reason for displaying any energy, or desire to win.
The most enthusiastic player was Sheerin, who made his first team debut for the entire second half. But none of his running around demonstrated any real skill. And the fact that he played a full ninety minutes for the reserves on Wednesday - in a match which Bournemouth won 4-0 - without getting his own name on the scoresheet, doesn't inspire confidence that he'll deliver the goods any more than any previous signings. For the record, when Sheerin came on, Hayter moved to the left midfield flank and O'Neill into the defensive central midfield position; Mean stood down. Very late in the game, Carl Fletcher came on for a run-around in place of O'Neill.
Oxford won by a single goal - a cracking shot from wide on Oxford's right on the half hour by Derek Lilley - but could have scored twice more. They hit the post just on half time; and a second half shot had eluded Ovendale and appeared to be rolling inevitably into the goal before Elliott displayed his miraculous pace and somehow hooked it off the goal line.
Just once, Bournemouth had the goal in the net - from an excellently taken Warren free-kick in the second half. But the referee (one Michael Ryan of Preston, who never allowed the game to flow and felt obliged to give a long lecture to every player who committed a foul) adjudged that the ball had been played early and didn't allow the advantage. Warren had an excellent second half (bar one awful pass) and defended well. All set pieces looked better than usual, with the single exception of the retaken free kick after the disallowed 'goal', and it was good to see only one player going to the flag whenever Bournemouth were awarded a corner kick.
Fenton looks a promising player - not only defending well but also helping out in both midfield and attack. In the set pieces it was good to see no fewer than three tall players (Steve Fletcher, Sheerin and Fenton) involved.
My scores out of ten :
Young (5), Howe (7), Fenton (8), Warren(7);
Elliott (7), Robinson (6), O'Neill (6);
S Fletcher (6), Hayter (6)