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Oxford Still On
Oxford Still On

Avoiding the Slippery Slope

By: Andrew Doherty
Date: 05/11/2023

TODAY'S FA Cup game has all the hazards of a banana skin. Our Vanarama National League South opponents Slough Town, nicknamed the Rebels and not the Roundabouts as my friend Jerry suggested, have every incentive to beat higher league opponents.

It's hard to escape the idea that last season's FA Cup success is a one-off, and our league form and performances this season have hardly been anything to encourage us. My thoughts before the game were these: if we are well prepared, we will win. If there's the slightest glimmer of doubt, Slough will exploit it. For once we were going to need to tread carefully but not blind ourselves with fear. What our interim managerial duo of Ben Davies and Shaun Pearson were going to bring to the table is unknown, but given that they were already part of the regime, I couldn't imagine much in the way of change. The main hope was for a psychological uplift.

It was a bright and breezy day in this workmanlike suburb to the west of London. Town, today in red, lined up on the plastic pitch against the men in Cambridge United amber and black today with: Cartwright - Efete, Rodgers, Maher, Amos - Clifton, Conteh, Andrews, Eisa - Rose, Wilson. 500 Town fans packed into Slough's small Arbour Park stadium, so we were well represented. The crowd today was 2,205.

Slough had the wind and sun behind for the first half. There was no atmosphere in the ground. Rose won a corner early on. The training ground move between Eisa, Amos and Andrews didn't work and Slough broke. Rodgers cut out the advancing Alexander. Town played the ball around and showed energy but as usual, there was no end product. Eisa dragged a shot wide and then supplied Clifton but Slough were dealing with Town's meagre efforts with ease. Conteh meanwhile got himself in a mess, and Slough had a brief period of pressure. The game lacked quality and involved a lot of fouls. Andrews duffed a shot on 17 minutes. Slough had the best chance so far on 18 minutes. Chambers-Papillon's shot was blocked by Maher. The ball came out to Alexander whose shot was tipped over by Cartwright. Rose then did the blocking as Slough applied pressure. Jackman then found Alexander but Town's defence remained resolute. Amos found himself clear on the left shortly after and crossed to Rose's head but the header went over. Slough's keeper had had nothing to do. The game now transformed into a scrappy midfield battle. On 28 minutes Andrews fouled Sundire 25 yards out. Davies with the wind behind and the sun in the goalkeeper's eyes expertly curled the ball into Cartwright's right corner. Slough 1, Town 0. In an attempt to make amends, Eweka was chased down but Town finished poorly. Clifton was booked for a foul on Goddard as the fouls continued. Lench put in a long cross to the far post for Sundire who fortunately for Town couldn't connect with his head. Efete then struggled to shake off Alexander following a pass from Chambers-Parillon. As Town continued to lose their shape and any semblance of quality, Sundire found himself clear in the right and crashed a header off the post. Just as Town's play lacked composure, Slough were playing with confidence. 4 minutes were added to the half. Wilson was fouled but the resultant set piece was poor, adding one more area of required improvement to the growing list. At half time the score remained at 1 - 0 to Slough. Town weren't playing as a team, the players were operating at a different pace and wavelength to each other, the Slough keeper hadn't been tested once, and there was a lack of leadership on the pitch. This was a catastrophe in the making.

Green and Pyke replaced Eisa and Conteh for the second half. Immediately Green started a move but Clifton just passed the ball to Slough keeper Luthra. On 48 minutes Efete got a yellow card, overhitting the ball and fouling Davies when entering the box. This summed up the poor quality we were seeing from Town. A sliced clearance from Luthra gave Town an opportunity deep in the Slough half but Efete was dispossessed and Slough broke. Town had two chances when first Clifton forced Luthra to dive but the shot went wide. Clifton again was in the action seconds later, finding Wilson in space but his shot also went wide of the post. Fouls were exchanged. The ball was being given away too much. Although Green's presence had finally seen some purpose, Town lacked movement as a unit and the interplay was little short of non-existent. Town had a spell of dominance around the 60-minute mark. Rose headed onto Pyke but again the game was stopped for a foul. Green then shimmied to find space and the ball from his cross was headed out for a corner. Pyke challenged for the ball and won another corner. Alexander then crushed Andrews outside the box. Although Andrews's free kick skimmed off the top of the crossbar, Town should have done better from such close range. Clifton then sent Efete away up the right. Efete was bowled over in the edge of the box by Baylis who earned a yellow card for his trouble. Andrews's free kick was awful in this gold star display of abject awfulness. Slough broke, leaving most of Town's players at the wrong end. Fortunately, Amos was on hand to stop the attack. With 69 minutes gone, Glennon replaced Amos and was immediately involved, winning a corner following hood work by Maher and Clifton. A flick by Pyke was cleared off the line. Slough responded with an attack. Goddard crossed to Alexander whose accurate header on goal rebounded off Rodgers's shoulder. Town countered. 74 minutes had gone. Clifton passed to the right. Efete ran on and crossed low to the advancing Rise who slotted the ball home. Slough 1, Town 1. This was Town's first fluid move of the game. A Rodgers back pass was sliced out horribly by Cartwright, giving Slough the initiative but Davies fired over. A quick free for Town after a foul on Rose didn't work but Efete then found Green in space. Green's effort was woeful, striking the banner over the back of the stand. Hunt replaced Clifton in 80 minutes. Town sought to move forward. Green placed a nice cross to the hapless Andrews who missed the ball completely. Mullarkey replaced Efete on 84 minutes. Instantly as Town were organising themselves Hutchinson placed the ball in a dangerous area. Town scrambled the ball clear. Incredulously Maher was booked for time wasting as Town tried to close the game. But Town were making no inroads in this performance of jumbled up parts. 8 minutes were added. Hunt was booked for a tackle and dissent. Eweka was then booked by the now card-happy referee for nutting Rose. Hunt's free kick from the left evaded everyone. Slough won a corner on 95 minutes. Goddard crossed but Mullarkey cleared. Wilson was fouled but nothing came of the free kick. The game finally ended: Slough Town 1, Grimsby Town 1. Slough's fans and players were happy.. It wasn't a classic in any sense. It was now cold and the rain came lashing in, reflecting the dismal fare that had been on offer.

It was an unconvincing performance from Town but we're in the FA Cup draw with a potential visit to Oxford in prospect. If we'd lost we couldn't have complained because we only produced one fluid move which led to the equaliser. Otherwise, Town stumbled and failed to operate as a team in the first half with a slight improvement in the second following the introduction of Green and Pyke. For a long time, there was a sombre air of inevitability about the result today but Town pulled through and avoided the slippery slope. of a sad and sorry defeat at Slough.

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