Gasheads Talk Back – Oxford Report

March 16, 2006


After observing a peaceful pre match protest by Oxford fans aimed at Chairman Firoz Kassam before the match, almost 2000 travelling Gasheads saw Rovers go down to their second defeat in as many matches.

 A disappointing display worsened only by what can only be described as some appalling refereeing, saw prospects of reaching the playoffs slip further out of reach after a one nil defeat at the Kassam Stadium on Wednesday night. 

Scoring opportunities were few and far between for a visibly hesitant Lewis Haldane and a Richard Walker contained comfortably by the battling Oxford defence, in a game in which neither side actually looked like scoring. [image2] 

 With the possible exception of Sammy Igoe, Rovers in the main failed to chase or challenge enough for the ball, which then allowed a flagging Oxford to recover and take the play back into Rovers half, although overall, the visitors did look the stronger team. Similarly, Rovers seemed more content to pass the ball around rather than seizing attacking opportunities, and it was this, interspersed with more and more high balls, that produced few chances to open up the scoring in the second half.

To the protest of both the Rovers players and the thousands of travelling Gas fans, the refereeing was in the very least ‘questionable’ and saw a number of penalty and handball calls by Rovers dismissed out of hand whereas in contrast, Oxford’s highly dubious penalty claim was immediately awarded, despite an obvious handball by the Oxford striker, allowing Steve Basham to score the only goal of another frustrating match for Gasheads.

[image3] At a time when the FA are losing many referees, the decisions by Mr Witestone looked to do nothing for that profession and only attracted derisory chants from a number of Rovers supporters that he was Oxford United’s ‘Man of the Match’. Earlier in the match he stopped play when turning round and clearly saw U’s defender Leo Roget strike Richard Walker. Though he did not see Walker commit any offence, the action taken was to book both players and award Oxford a free kick, bizarre refereeing to say the least. Many felt Mr Whitestone had lost his authority very early in the match when he deemed a ‘stiff talking to’ sufficient punishment when Stuart Campbell was crudely brought down just outside Oxford’s penalty box by the Oxford right back. A (deserved) yellow card at this stage would have set the tone for the game and maybe produced a better football spectacle. Instead we were witness to an array of poor decision after poor decision by an official who had clearly lost the confidence of most present. [image4]

Despite continual physical attention from the Oxford defence, Richard Walker worked ver y hard for scant reward. Sammy Igoe seemed to be frustrated at players not going where he wanted them to receive balls to get Rovers forwardThe late introduction of both Jamie Forester and Ali Gibb was not enough to salvage a point from the game and this hugely disappointing result now looks to have finally quashed any hopes Rovers had of making the playoffs.

Overall a very disappointing game marred by some poor refereeing, though this should not detract from a concerning showing from the Rovers team in which at times they looked worryingly short of ideas. Rovers were never worth three points, but certainly did not deserve to go away with nothing. It seems ‘must win’ time is fast approaching now if they are to remain as late play off place contenders.

Gasheads Talk Back

[image5] After the match, I spoke with some of the 1999 Gasheads that travelled to the Kassam Stadium in the hope of seeing a victory for Rovers. After the disappointment of Saturday’s match against Notts County people were keen to have their say, as listed below.

Ian from Horfield said;

The Rovers team without Junior seems to be struggling and devoid of ideas at times. Despite working so very hard, Richard Walker found the match to be a bruising encounter and enjoyed very little if any protection from a referee that had clearly lost any respect at a very early stage. Our movement on the night seemed almost non-existent and with very few chances for the front men it was a most forgettable match. The incompetant referee was flanked by two officials with ineptitude of equal measure, though we should not let their totally inadequate performance deflect us from the fact we were not good enough on the night to win it. The one good thing to come out of this match was the fact we now have just one game left without Junior, and boy have we missed him.

Paul from Clifton saw it this way;

After a match where Walker appeared to be on his own Saturday, I was honestly expecting to see a performance tonight where we might be able to change it and make up for Saturday’s loss. Sadly, once again Walker was left out on a limb and could not profit from all the ball he was winning as he had no support at times. Absolutely fuming over the poor ref. Never a penalty. On a more positive note, it was nice to see Lescott have a decent game. He proved to be the right choice on the night as he needed all his pace to deal with the tricky Matt Robinson who tried turning him this way and that without an awful lot of success. There’s no doubt we’re missing Junior as we had no real outlet last night.

Tom from Old Sodbury observed;

I am going home disappointed tonight, but not surprised. If we’d played Oxford on the Saturday as scheduled, they would have been without Roget through suspension, and tonight he was a nuisance, pulling and fouling Walker all over the park. I am disgusted the referee didn’t have the courage or ability to make the right decisions tonight, and it cost us. I  though we had a nailed on penalty decision which he just did not see. At no time during the entire match did he seek advice or opinion from either of his assistants. What is the point of them being there? I think I am most fed up because we have had a lateish run as possible play off contenders dangled in front of us and seem to be having it snatched away cruelly since Junior got himself suspended. Yet again, we had nothing on the bench tonight with which we could turn it round. Thats not down to Trolls or Lennie in my opinion, they have to work with what they inherited, but if we are stuck with this league again next year we have to ship out those we don’t need and get some better replacements.

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