Peterborough striker Kyle Vassell has arrived at the Kassam Stadium on loan for the remainder of the season. It has come as no surprise after Appleton vouched that he was back in the market after United’s strikers have had a torrid time in front of goal – with no goals scored from open play in 11. Vassell himself had to say:
“I’m delighted to be here. Hopefully I can score some goals and help Oxford in the remaining games this season”
The Posh striker has registered 5 Sky Bet League One goals this season and gives United another option in the final third. If Vassell is to feature on Saturday he will be the 43rd player to make a U’s appearance this season after one of United’s busiest ever seasons in the transfer market.
In other news loanees Giorgio Rasulo and Armand Gnanduillet have returned to their respective parent clubs after being recalled for lack of game time. Also prospect Balmy has joined Oxford City on loan for the remainder of the season.
Michael Appleton has been subject to a lot of criticism in the season as a whole but a select few fans maintained faith in the United boss. Tuesday’s demise to Hartlepool changed this, however. The performance lacked emotion, passion, tactical deployment and desire. There was a real anxiousness and tentativeness about the way the U’s played even when they were matched up against the worst side in the entire Football League. It was dire.
First of all, I am unsure to why Appleton persists with the central midfield pairing of Collins and Ruffels particularly against lower-league sides. In their own regard they are two extremely valuable players in the fourth tier; Collins brings composure and an ilk of class when on his game and Ruffels is neat and precise – mostly doing the unnoticed. But one thing that really bugs me is when they play together. They are too similar. They both lack creativity and drive, so what we get is a very motionless midfield, with most passes heading horizontal or backwards. The game needed an injection of pace, particularly against a Hartlepool defence which looked very nervous. We would have been able to get this through out-of-favour Danny Rose. He is not afraid to pick the ball up and do something positive with it; whether it is driving forward ten yards or feeding a centre forward through, these are his capabilities. This raises the question to why Danny Rose is out-of-favour? Has he done anything wrong? This would have immediately brought another dimension to the game. A dimension which perhaps could have had a very positive effect. But then again Appleton doesn’t believe in a ‘Plan B’.
The wide midfielders were ultimately ineffectual. Callum O’Dowda was brought off early, with Appleton admitting that he was tired – If this was the case then it seems nonsensical to start him. That would have enabled Kemar Roofe to play in his more favoured position on the wing and the likes of James Roberts to come into the fray up-front. Roberts also brings that cutting edge, an instinct in front of goal which has seriously been lacking since top-scorer Danny Hylton picked up a suspension due to an accumulation of yellow cards.
Ultimately the U’s looked very despondent and the naivety shown by Appleton was bewildering. In his post match interview the comments he made dismissing the fans as “white-noise” was probably the worst thing he could possibly have done. Our fans have consistently turned up week after week, despite only seeing 5 home wins in 19 so it hurts badly when labelled as white-noise. Then to add insult to injury, he openly said that he would not have changed the starting XI if he was to play the same game again, nor change anything tactically. Never have I witnessed such a delusional statement, particularly after such an abysmal display of ‘football’. Is he this naive that he can’t see through his own sides flaws. If thats the case then we’re in trouble.
It’s not entertaining. It’s not pretty football. It is boring and lethargic. I’m not sure how Appleton will turn this around and now he has lost the fans I can’t see him staying long. Lets just hope Eales sees through Appleton’s various ploys and sees sense in the matter. Only time will tell…
Callum O’Dowda has embarked on a marvellous coming of age over the course of the season so far. At the beginning of the campaign nothing was expected of him. We had seen him introduced by Chris Wilder, a skinny teenager who in all honesty was ineffectual at best, and although he was a regular in the 18-man match-day squad he only mustered 10 appearences and failed to score. He seemed to lack self-expression and seemed restricted. But along came Appleton.
Michael Appleton has come under a lot of pressure this season due to the magnitude of the spending but the vast amount of distasteful results. However, credit needs to be given to the U’s boss for the way he has nurtured the youngsters and how he has developed them into competitive first team players. During Appleton’s very first interview with the club he said this:
“I want to see players who express themselves”
For a young, tricky winger, this is exactly the type of approach that you want to hear. Wingers thrive playing their own game and when playing with the utmost freedom. I believe this has acted as a catalyst in O’Dowda’s development. He now plays with a prowess and a confidence, which has seen him evolve from a one-in-four man into a three-in-four man. With this has come goals, assists and apparent interest from a host of clubs. It is also not a surprise that he has earned himself a call up for the Republic of Ireland U21’s.
The home game against Accrington Stanley was undoubtedly O’Dowda’s best all-round performance of the season so far. He took the game to seasoned right-back Nicky Hunt and tore him to shreds. His trickery and pace proved too much for the Stanley full-back and although he did not get on the scoresheet, his chance creation was through the roof and he helped his side to a 3-1 victory. This came just a few days after scoring his first U’s goal against Exeter and set the tone for an upwards spiral. Since then he has become consistent and has been a serious threat to the opposition and has put in radiant displays against play-off contenders Stevenage and Bury, in each case scoring the winner. Consequently, Luton Town manager John Still labelled him as a threat when they visited the Kassam and various other managers have been probing to cancel him out of the game as he is becoming an ever-present nuisance.
Now, all Oxford fans should know that we should not get carried away by the emergence of O’Dowda as we have seen far too many false dawns for our liking. But the Kidlington Kid, a lifelong fan of Oxford and one of the most auspicious emerging talents we have seen for years, is someone who may be a big name in years to come. It’s his destiny.
West Bromwich Albion loanee Kemar Roofe has extended his loan spell with the U’s until the end of the season. Roofe has impressed in his four cameo appearances and earned his first start against high-flyers Bury last week. His efforts have been recognised by boss Michael Appleton who is delighted that he was able to add to the original 28-day loan spell previously agreed.
“I worked with Kemar when he was a youngster at West Brom and have always known he has talent. He has now added a real maturity to that and he has done well for us. I think there is more to come from him and it is good to be able to work with him over a longer period.”
With top-scorer Danny Hylton suspended for the next two games it is likely the forward will retain his place in the starting XI and he could use this to cement a regular starting role. Kemar himself is excited to extend his stay.
“It’s good to have it sorted out nice and early. I have really enjoyed my time here. I have been made to feel very welcome, there is a positive outlook throughout the club and I am enjoying my football.”