A week can be a long time in football. It’s not even been that long since we lost at the Abbey to Cheltenham resulting in my reluctant calling for Mark to do the decent thing and step back from the hot seat, an article that seemed to neatly divide the fanbase right down the middle (as well as here at UTAS HQ).
Have I changed my mind? Without wanting to be too fickle, I’m not sure too much has changed at all. Yes, we played well against Oxford and got a much needed three points, and yes our intensity levels seemed much higher. But previous wins haven’t led to great runs in form, and it wasn’t a particularly convincing afternoon in front of goal, so for me the jury is still out.
I mentioned previously I wanted nothing more than for Mark to prove me wrong, to keep us up in a blaze of glory and lead us on to an era-defining level of success the likes of which we haven’t seen since the days of John Beck. That’s still the case. My level of admiration and respect for Mark is so incredibly high I really don’t want him to fail at United. His tenure so far has been a fairy-tale, and it deserves a fairy-tale ending. I hope it still has that.
Mark came out fighting in his press conference, reiterating his desire to stay and see this project through. He spoke of the confidence the board have in him (backed up by today’s statement from Paul Barry that said he’s going nowhere) and the fact that the players know what they have to do to turn this spell around. He stuck with those players from Tuesday’s defeat, but the bench was buoyed by the return of Liam O’Neil and the addition of George Thomas.
United got off to a strong start, the lads playing at a higher tempo and with Mark himself noticeably more vocal on the touchline. It didn’t take long for this to pay off, a Connor McGrandles corner delivered onto the head of Lloyd Jones who put it beyond the keeper and United in to the lead.
United kept up the pressure on an out-of-form Oxford side, with James Brophy and Sam Smith in particular chasing everything and covering every blade of grass on the pitch. Paul Digby took a whack to the nose before half time which saw him needing to change out of his bloodstained shirt, and emerge for the second half with a load tissue jammed up his nostril.
The second half saw United continue to try and push for another goal, but Oxford looked the stronger side with manager Karl Robinson fighting for his job. For all Oxford’s pressure they couldn’t convert any chances into goals (remind you of anyone?) despite a forcing a couple of saves out of Mitov most of their chances were well off the mark.
Three much needed points then, and a great reaction to Tuesday’s performance. Whilst it wasn’t the most convincing victory it was three points and the job done. It was great to see George Thomas make his debut for United, and he looks like he’s going to be a great asset for us during the run in. Liam Bennett continues to come on leaps and bounds and will almost certainly have a big money move ahead of him at some point. Ryan Bennett is an absolute Rolls-Royce of a defender, and could prove to be our most important January signing yet. We simply must use this result as a platform to springboard our season, and back up this result with another one against Fleetwood on Tuesday.
Since Tuesday I’ve been accused of being hasty, and of numerous other things, and I’ve always said that if I’m wrong then I can accept that – I’ll put my hands up and file it under the litany of ‘Bad Football Takes’ and move on. If we do genuinely turn this around than Mark has my my full support. It’s not an impossible task, but it’s not going to be easy either. Right now it doesn’t matter what I think – the board have spoken so all that’s left to do is to back Mark and the team to get us out of this malaise.
League One football is the most important thing to this football club – financially and reputation-ally and it’s Mark Bonner’s job to deliver that for us. He believes he can do it, the board believes he can do it, and the players seem to believe he can do it. Regardless of whether you’re ‘Bonner In’ or ‘Bonner Out’ the best thing we as fans can do right now is to be United.
Man of the Match: Loads of options today, Brophy and Liam Bennett were brilliant, as were Digby and Jones, but we’re giving the award to Ryan Bennett. His composure in defence is going to be really important.
Soundtrack of the Match: The Cure – Boys Don’t Cry
Not sure “League 1 football is the most imprtant thing to this football club” is correct.
More important is that it continues to function as a football club for fans to visit, and if staying in business means yo-yoing between L1 and L2 then so be it. Keeping out of the Conference/National league is probably most important!
I don’t want the club to be like the many clubs that have financial issues, such as Bury, Southend, Oldham etc.
Keep up the good work,