Ipswich Town v Oxford United
Saturday 20th February 2021 – 15:00
Pre-Match Thoughts - Mike
Rotten To The Core.........
With each passing day the situation at Portman Road appears to be getting worse and worse, as if things weren't bad enough prior to Tuesday's laughable effort against Northampton Town they sure as hell are pretty dire now, we now find ourselves the centre of much attention for all the wrong reasons, much of what us Town fans have suffered in recent times has been kept "in house" but that has been blown out of the water now with TV, Sky, Talksport, National Newspapers, you name it all having their say, past players, rival ex Chairmen, TV pundits also taking time to comment on the dire situation in which we find ourselves. What all that done is to show the world that things are far from right in Suffolk and that the normally tolerant fanbase have had more than enough, the pathetic letting off at flares may have been a sad effort by some to make a point but whether we like it or not it has done exactly that, ok there were only Three or Four individuals responsible but is it often not the case that those Four voices represent a far greater number of people who choose to remain silent.
Following the embarrassment of Tuesday evening Paul Lambert has come out and from where I am sitting he has in a roundabout way blamed Marcus Evans for the failings at the Football club, yes he has made a garbled attempt to blame everyone and anyone but when you read headlines like this it is obvious to me what he is insinuating.........
Those words speak volumes as to where Lambert lays the blame, I also read it that should it not get sorted to how Lambert wants things to be he won't be around too much longer which I have to say is fine by me. We can all blame Marcus Evans as much as we like and let's face it there are plenty who have always held him accountable but the fact remains I do NOT blame Evans one bit for what happens on a match day or indeed the build up to it, it is the Manager and the Manager alone who sets the training routines, he also decides on tactics, formations, line up's, substitutions etc etc, I think it is unfair to say we have no investment in the squad, Lambert identified players in the window and Four new faces were brought in at his request, decent acquisitions we all thought but so far it hasn't panned out that way either.“Marcus Evans has put an incredible amount of money into the football club. I understand that, it’s a hard, hard gig running a football club because of the amount of money they must put in is incredible.
“But you need an infrastructure where everybody at Ipswich Town has to get round a table and say ‘Where are we going here? What are we doing? What’s the infrastructure here?’. Because this needs to stop, this needs to stop.”
Quizzed on whether Evans is open to that, he added: “We have to have dialogue, we have to have a discussion. I’m not going to come here [and criticise him] because he’s always been good with me, he tells me how it is, we have dialogue. But the football club needs him to say what’s going to happen with the structure. I think that’s the way it should be.
“The big thing for me is I did the same at Aston Villa, protected Randy Lerner for a long, long time. It was like a lamb to a slaughter what was happening there.
“I can’t do that again, I can’t go through that again. There’s got to be a structure where everybody gets around a table.
We also had opportunities to sell or loan out players but again I didn't see Evans cashing in on the likes of Jackson, Nolan, Downes etc etc which he could so easily have done, yes Evans is an awful owner in many ways but the blame for on field failings stop at the door of One man.
Our disappointing run has seen us win a meagre Four of the last Fourteen games, taking Twenty Three points from Twenty games, that is relegation form and with a torrid run of fixtures coming up the outlook is bleak, in fact a relegation scrap could still yet become a possibility if we don't improve and improve fast. It doesn't help when the likes of Flynn Downes chooses to get himself sent off at the death meaning we lose one of our best players for another Two matches. We are racking up more Red cards that we do chances created, the discipline seems appalling lately and it is costing us big time, Dozzell, Nsiala, Downes, Bishop, Jackson all seeing red at one time or another. I think it is clear that there is much disharmony within the squad with the news emerging that Jon Nolan & Kayden Jackson have been banished to train with the U23's for airing their views on not being in the match day squads lately, another piece of bad press at a time we could do without it, for me it is a clear indication that Lambert is losing the dressing room, if he hasn't already.
I don't think it really matters who we are up against next as victory would seem a forlorn hope but it just so happens we have the team top of the current form league visiting Portman Road, Oxford Utd have been flying and they look to be a real threat to the top teams in this division, having failed against the likes of Swindon Town & Northampton Town I cannot for the life of me see anything but another Oxford win in this one, Ten wins in the last Eleven League outings has seen the rocket up to Seventh in the table and they not sit Nine off an automatic promotion place with Three games in hand, at present they are the best in the division and we are the worst so it's a no brainer really. Oxford is probably more famous for the boat race than it's Football team and I can see Town sinking without trace in this one. Away banker and a whole load more negative fall out to follow. COYB'S
The Opposition – Oxford United
Oxford United were formed as Headington in 1893, adding the suffix United in 1911 after merging with Headington Quarry. The club was founded by Rev. John Scott-Tucker, the vicar at Saint Andrew's Church in Headington, and a local doctor named Robert Hitchings. A football team was a way for the cricketers of Headington Cricket Club to maintain their fitness during the winter break. The club's first football match played was against Cowley Barracks.
Headington had no regular home until 1913, when they were able to purchase Wootten's Field on London Road, but this was redeveloped in 1920, forcing the club to move. A permanent home was found in 1925, when they purchased the Manor Ground site on London Road. The facility was used as a cricket pitch in the summer, and a football pitch in the winter. In 1899, six years after their formation, Headington United joined the Oxfordshire District League Second Division, where they competed until the outbreak of the First World War; the Second Division was renamed the Oxfordshire Junior League after the resumption of football in 1919.
In 1921, the club was admitted into the Oxon Senior League. The first season included a 9–0 victory, with eight of those goals coming from P. Drewitt. This remains a record for the highest number of goals scored by an Oxford player in a first-team match. At this time a small rivalry existed with Cowley F.C., who were based a few miles south of Headington. During a league game on May Day, the referee gave two penalties to Cowley; supporters broke past security and players, resulting in the referee being "freely baited". The first FA Cup tie played was in 1931, against Hounslow F.C. in the Preliminary Round, ending in an 8–2 defeat for Headington. United spent two seasons in the Spartan League in 1947 and 1948, finishing fifth and fourth respectively. It was around this time that the cricket team left the Manor and moved to new premises near Cowley Barracks.
A move into professional football was first considered during the 1948–49 season. Vic Couling, the president at the time, had applied for Headington to become a member of a new Second Division in the Southern League. Other teams that applied included Weymouth, Kettering Town and future league side Cambridge United. Although the plans were postponed, the First Division was going to be expanded by two clubs; Weymouth and Headington were elected. It was later discovered that Llanelli had just one vote fewer than Headington. Oxford played its first season in the Southern League in 1949, the same year they turned professional. Former First Division forward Harry Thompson was hired as manager. In 1950, Headington United became the first professional club in Britain to install floodlights, and used them on 18 December against Banbury Spencer. They initially played in orange and blue shirts, but changed to yellow home shirts for the 1957–58 season. The reason for the change is unknown. In 1960, Headington United was renamed Oxford United, to give the club a higher profile.
Two years later, in 1962, the club won the Southern League title for the second successive season and was elected to the Football League Fourth Division, occupying the vacant place left by bankrupt Accrington Stanley.
Two successive eighteenth-place finishes followed, before promotion to the Third Division was achieved in 1965. A year before the promotion, Oxford became the first Fourth Division club to reach the sixth round of the FA Cup, but have not progressed that far in the competition since. Oxford won the Third Division title in 1967–68, their sixth season as a league club, but after eight years of relative stability the club was relegated from the Second Division in 1975–76.
In 1982, as a Third Division side, Oxford United faced closure because of the club's inability to service the debts owed to Barclays Bank, but were rescued when businessman Robert Maxwell took over the club. In April 1983, Maxwell proposed merging United with neighbours Reading, to form a new club called the Thames Valley Royals, to play at Didcot. Jim Smith would have managed the club and been assisted by Reading boss Maurice Evans. The merger was called off as a result of fans of both clubs protesting against the decision. Furthermore, the Reading chairman stepped down and was replaced by an opponent of the merger. Maxwell also threatened to fold the club if the merger did not go through. Oxford won the Third Division title after the 1983–84 season under the management of Jim Smith, who also guided them to the Second Division title the following year. This meant that Oxford United would be playing First Division football in the 1985–86 season, 23 years after joining the Football League. Smith moved to Queens Park Rangers shortly after the promotion success, and made way for chief scout Maurice Evans, who, several seasons earlier, had won the Fourth Division title with Reading.
Oxford United finished eighteenth in the 1985–86 First Division, avoiding relegation on the last day of the season after defeating Arsenal 3–0. They also won the Football League Cup, known at the time as the Milk Cup under a sponsorship deal. As winners, Oxford would have qualified for the following season's UEFA Cup, had it not been for the ban on English teams that had resulted from the previous year's Heysel Stadium disaster. It was the last time the League Cup was played under the name "Milk Cup", sponsors Littlewoods taking over the following season. The 1986–87 season saw Oxford United narrowly avoid relegation and stay in the First Division. Robert Maxwell resigned as chairman in May 1987, to take over at Derby County, handing the club to his son Kevin. Maurice Evans was sacked in March 1988 with Oxford bottom of the First Division.
Former Liverpool defender Mark Lawrenson was named as Oxford's new manager, but was unable to prevent relegation to the Second Division. He was sacked three months into the 1988–89 Second Division campaign after a dispute with the chairman over the £1 million sale of striker Dean Saunders to Derby County. Derby were owned by Robert Maxwell, father of the then Oxford United chairman, Kevin Maxwell. Following Robert Maxwell's death in 1991, his personal estate, including the club, became insolvent.
After a long search for a new owner, during which BioMass Recycling Ltd took over the club, Brian Horton was named as Oxford's new manager. He remained in charge until September 1993, when he moved to Manchester City in the recently formed FA Premier League. Horton led United to mid-table finishes during his management spell, apart from a 21st-place finish at the end of the 1991–92 season. Oxford, now in the renamed Football League Division One, briefly restored Maurice Evans as manager, before turning to Bristol City manager Denis Smith. Despite Smith's efforts, Oxford was relegated to Division Two at the end of the 1993–94 season, with just four wins in the last eleven games.
Denis Smith brought in two strikers who were experienced in the top division: Southampton's Paul Moody and Nottingham Forest's Nigel Jemson. Oxford finished seventh in 1994–95 season, and in the following season gained promotion by finishing runners-up to rivals Swindon Town, despite not winning an away game till the end of January. Robin Herd, co-owner of the March Racing Team, took control of the club in 1995. In June of that year, the board of directors unveiled plans for a new 16,000-seat stadium at Minchery Farm, to replace the dilapidated Manor Ground. The club had hoped to move into the new stadium near the Blackbird Leys housing estate by the start of the 1998–99 season, but construction was suspended during the preceding season, because construction company Taylor Woodrow had not been paid for the work already undertaken.
The 1996–97 season saw Oxford finish seventeenth, and included the sale of Scottish international defender Matt Elliott to Leicester City. Despite Smith's departure to West Bromwich Albion in December 1997, United finished twelfth the following season under his successor, and former captain, Malcolm Shotton. Shotton was previously the assistant manager of the Barnsley side that gained promotion to the Premier League. During October 1998, the backroom staff at the club went unpaid, due to United's financial situation with the new stadium, and the threat of administration caused a group of fans to set up a pressure group called Fighting for Oxford United's Life (FOUL). The group began to publicise the club's plight through a series of meetings and events, including a 'Scarf of Unity', which was a collection of scarves from various clubs which was long enough to stretch around the perimeter of the pitch. Chairman Robin Herd stepped down to concentrate on his engineering projects, and in April 1999 Firoz Kassam bought Herd's 89.9% controlling interest in Oxford United for £1, with which he also inherited the club's estimated £15 million debt. Kassam reduced £9 million of the debt to just £900,000, by virtue of a Company Voluntary Arrangement, by which unsecured creditors who were owed over £1,000 were reimbursed with 10p for every pound they were owed. Secured creditors were paid off when Kassam sold the Manor to another of his companies, for £6 million. Kassam set about completing the unfinished stadium, gaining planning permission for a bowling alley, multiplex cinema and hotel next to the stadium, following a series of legal battles which were eventually all settled. The season ended with relegation back to the Second Division.
Oxford's poor form continued into the 1999–2000 season and, with the team in the relegation zone, Shotton resigned in late October. After a few months with Mickey Lewis as player-manager, former manager Denis Smith returned to the club, managing a twentieth-place finish, one place clear of relegation. Smith's second spell didn't last long, and he was replaced by David Kemp a few weeks into the following campaign. At the end of the 2000–01 season, Oxford were relegated back to the Third Division after a 35-year absence, with 100 goals conceded. They suffered 33 league defeats, the second-highest number of league defeats ever endured by a league club in a single season.
Oxford began the next season with a new manager and a new stadium, with the relocation to the Kassam Stadium completed after six years of speculation. Former Liverpool and England defender Mark Wright was given the manager's job, but resigned in late November, after being accused of making racist remarks to referee Joe Ross. Wright's successor, Ian Atkins, was unable to make an immediate impact and Oxford finished in 21st position in the league, at the time their lowest-ever league position. United missed out on the play-off places the following season, by one place and one point. Fifteen wins at the start of the 2003–04 season saw Oxford top of the table at the end of January. However, Ian Atkins was sacked in March after agreeing to take charge at rivals Bristol Rovers. His replacement, Graham Rix, could only manage a ninth-place finish at the end of the season, and was sacked the following November. Oxford replaced him with Argentine Ramón Díaz, who managed the team to a mid-table finish. Diaz and his team of assistants left the club at the beginning of May 2005, after being banned from the ground by the chairman following failed negotiations. During his time at the club, Diaz brought in a number of South American players including his own sons, and Juan Pablo Raponi. Ex-England midfielder and former West Bromwich Albion manager Brian Talbot signed a two-year contract to replace Rix. Talbot found little success and was sacked in March 2006, with the club in 22nd place. He was replaced by youth team coach Darren Patterson.
On 21 March 2006, Firoz Kassam sold the club, including its debts, for approximately £2 million to Florida-based businessman Nick Merry, who had played for United's youth team in the mid-1970s. Merry immediately made changes to the club, including the hiring of former manager Jim Smith in his second spell. Despite signing five new players on his first day in charge, Smith was unable to prevent relegation at the end of the 2005–06 season. After 44 years in English league football, Oxford were relegated to the Conference National after finishing in 23rd place, becoming the first former winners of a major trophy to be relegated from the league. Coincidentally, Accrington Stanley, the club whose bankruptcy in 1962 allowed United to be elected into the League, was one of the two clubs promoted to replace them.
Jim Smith was retained as manager for the following season, and it started positively for Oxford, with 14 wins and 8 draws from the opening 25 games. A run of eleven league games without a win followed, and saw United drop to second, where they remained until the end of the season. On Boxing Day 2006, a crowd of 11,065 watched United draw 0–0 with Woking at the Kassam Stadium, the largest-ever attendance for a Conference match (excluding play-offs). Oxford qualified for the play-offs by finishing second, but lost on penalties in the semi-final to Exeter City.
On 9 November 2007, Jim Smith resigned as manager and first-team coach Darren Patterson returned as manager. In a lacklustre season which included defeats to Droylsden and Tonbridge Angels, camouflaged by a belated run of eight wins in the last eleven games, Oxford finished 9th in the Conference National in 2007–08, 10 points off the last play-off place.
On 2 October 2008, Nick Merry stepped down as chairman to be replaced by Kelvin Thomas, who had been part of the management team at the time of Merry's takeover. Just under two months later, Patterson was sacked after a poor run of form, and was replaced by former Halifax Town manager Chris Wilder. Following Wilder's arrival, the team won 15 of the remaining 21 league matches that season. A 5-point deduction for fielding an unregistered player resulted in a seventh-place finish, four points and two places short of the play-offs.
Oxford led the table for most of the first half of the 2009–10 season, but dropped into the play-off places after a poor run of form, finishing third. They beat Rushden & Diamonds over two legs to advance to the play-off final against York City on 16 May 2010. Oxford won the final 3–1, to return to the Football League for the 2010–11 season. The attendance was 42,669, a new record for the final, with around 33,000 being United fans.
Oxford's first game back in the Football League was away to Burton, which finished in a 0–0 draw; their first League win was on 4 September against Morecambe at the Kassam Stadium, with James Constable scoring a hat-trick in a 4–0 victory. They finished the season in 12th place.
The team spent much of the 2011–12 season in or around the playoff places, and achieved the double over rivals (and eventual champions) Swindon Town for the first time since the 1973–74 season. However, they failed to win any of their last seven matches and finished the season in 9th place, two places and four points outside the play-offs.
Chairman Kelvin Thomas stepped down during the 2012 close season, to be replaced by owner Ian Lenagan. The 2012–13 season was blighted by injuries and patchy form: after opening the season with three wins and briefly heading the table, United lost their next six games, a pattern of inconsistency that was to continue throughout the season. United finished outside the play-offs for the third consecutive season, but manager Chris Wilder was given a further one-year contract in April 2013. Some Oxford fans were unhappy about the decision to renew Wilder's contract, having pressed for his sacking during the second half of the 2012–13 season.
After another bright start, Oxford led the table several times in the first half of the 2013–14 season. On 25 January 2014, with the club faltering though still in the play-off places, Wilder resigned as manager to take up the reins at relegation-threatened Northampton. Mickey Lewis subsequently became the caretaker manager for a second time for the club. On 22 March 2014, Gary Waddock was appointed the head coach of the club after a lengthy interview process, leaving his job as Head of Coaching at MK Dons. Under Lewis and Waddock, Oxford slipped out of the play-off places in the final few weeks of the season, finishing a disappointing eighth in the table, nine points off the last playoff place.
In July 2014, Waddock's contract was terminated after a change of ownership and he was replaced by Michael Appleton. Waddock's surprise sacking ensured he had the worst record of any Oxford manager, winning only once and losing seven times in his eight games in charge of the club.
After an indifferent first season under Appleton, Oxford achieved promotion to League One in his second year in charge, finishing the 2015–16 season in 2nd place with 86 points. They also reached the final of the League Trophy at Wembley Stadium, only the club's third appearance at the national stadium, but were defeated 3–2 by their League One opponents Barnsley. In 2016–17, having sold Kemar Roofe during the close season for a record £3m and signed Marvin Johnson for an undisclosed fee also thought to be a club record, Oxford finished 8th in League One, four points short of the playoff places, and again lost in the final of the League Trophy at Wembley, this time to relegation-bound Coventry City.
Appleton left the club to become assistant manager at Leicester City of the Premier League in June 2017, and was replaced by Pep Clotet, formerly assistant manager at Leeds United. On 22 January 2018, Clotet was sacked, with the club in 10th place in League One after a home defeat to bottom club Bury.
After a lengthy period under caretaker-manager Derek Fazackerley during which the team slipped to within 4 points of the relegation zone, Karl Robinson, former manager of Milton Keynes Dons and Charlton Athletic, was appointed on 22 March 2018.
A 12th place finished was achieved the following year, despite spending over half of the season in the relegation zone. An improved 4th place finished followed in the shortened 2019/20 season, which was affected by the COVID-19 Pandemic. When the season was suspended, Oxford were 3rd in the table, but following an agreement from clubs to end the season early, the U's dropped one place to 4th after the final table was decided under an unweighted points per game system. The play-offs continued as normal, where United faced Portsmouth in the semi-final. Following a 1-1 draw in the first leg. United won 5-4 on penalties when the game ended 1-1 after extra time. In the final behind closed doors at Wembley, Oxford lost 2-1 to Wycombe Wanderers.
The Manager – Karl Robinson
Ipswich Last 5 Matches – Currently in 11th place with 40 points
2 Feb AFC Wimbledon pp. Ipswich Town
6 Feb Ipswich Town 2 - 0 Blackpool
9 Feb Peterborough 2 - 1 Ipswich Town
13 Feb Shrewsbury pp. Ipswich Town
16 Feb Ipswich Town 0 - 0 Northampton
Oxford Last 5 Matches – Currently in 7th place with 43 points
26 Jan Rochdale 3 - 4 Oxford Utd
30 Jan Oxford Utd 1 - 0 Fleetwood
6 Feb Doncaster 3 - 2 Oxford Utd
9 Feb Bristol Rovers 0 - 2 Oxford Utd
14 Feb Oxford Utd 2 - 1 Wigan Athletic
Match Referee – Marc Edwards
IPSWICH TOWN 1 OXFORD UNITED 1