This game (apart from the Bevan/Ellis 'Christmas Giveaway') was lost on the wings. Oxford would have their wingers running into space to pick up the ball and start the attack on the front foot. Torquay either had their wingers playing inside (almost centre mid) or picking the ball up too flat in order to mount an attack.
Fair play to Oxford (where's Billy Turley nowadays?) who were always first to the second ball and at times seemed to have an extra player.
Not sure why we played Benyon at the start as the lone striker although he almost got his hat trick near the end but was beaten to the matchball by Midson
A pretty frenetic but entertaining game that we were forced to chase for much of and this ultimately proved to be our undoing.
Oxford started the better team and we struggled to obtain any meaningful possession. We almost scored from a corner with a goal line clearance that some players appealed for a goal but sitting in the family stand I couldn't be sure. ;D Their goal came from some good skill on the edge of the penalty area straight into the top right corner giving Bevan no chance. A poorly defended corner just before half time allowed a header back across and towards the goal with a simple tap in.
Things looked bleak but then we came to life. Almost immediately Benyon managed to get away and get the ball into the net. Zebs then very nearly scored with a shot that just went wide of the top right corner. So 1-2 at half time and things were looking slightly more promising.
In the second half we continued to press forward but without success and then Oxford managed to get behind the right of our defence and as Bevan came out a goal was scored on a narrow angle and again from the family stand it looked like the goal that Green scored against Blackpool.
Cue, a double substitution of Stevens and Kee for Eunan and Hemmings and the fightback. Kee managed to get away on the right and his shot was saved by the keeper but rebounded in front of the goal and although an Oxford defender got there first, Benyon managed to get a foot in with a typical fox in a box goal.
By now, it was wave upon wave of Torquay attacks and a brave tackle by Danny resulted in us in regaining possession in front of the goal and Kee scored with a well composed chip/shot. He was looking pretty good when he came on, worked well with Benyon and had a few good tricks that didn't quite come off as there always seemed to be a second or third defender to cover.
At 3- 3 it was mainly Torquay and it looked like we could go on to win with a number of chances and a rather optimistic penalty shout that didn't quite come off. Unfortunately, after pushing forward from one attack we were left too exposed at the back and sure enough the ball came out to an unmarked Oxford player on the edge of the area and the winner was duly well taken.
For me, the turning points in the match came from a poorly defended corner for their second and the Zebroski miss which left us with just a little too much to do in the second half. Pretty good match for the neutral and I heard an Oxford supporter commenting that apart from their Wembley win, it was the best away match that they had been too!
The first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him.
Defensively this was a carry on from the Hereford game - soft goals given away. I made it 3 in this game. In the end our sterling comeback from 3-1 to 3-3 was not enough as our defence again went missing for Oxford's winner in injury time. At least 3-3 would have been satisfying in the circimstances. The injured Branston was sorely missed today and regulars who have witnessed our recent seasons know that the pairing of Robertson and Ellis in central defence does NOT tend to work well. Sadly there was no Charnock to turn to today to slot into the left side of central defence as he has now departed to Morecombe. We now don't have much decent backup in defence. Crowd 3,021, approaching 500 from Oxford I would guess, sponsors MOTM Benyon.
Torquay had the bulk of possession in the first half but did not threaten Oxford enough. With only Benyon playing in attack with O'Kane playing "in the hole", it does again raise the argument that we should play 4-4-2 at home. Torquay played some nice triangles passing the ball but it tended to be in our own half. Early on, Oxford had to clear the ball off the line and they rarely threatened themselves. However the complexion of the match was changed on 35 minutes. Craddock made room for himself about 25 yards out and unleashed an unstoppable shot past Bevan. However, Oxford's second on 42 minutes was very preventable. A corner came over and was headed towards goal and poked in at close range. Where was the marking ? A minute later Benyon gave us hope. I think it was O'Kane who put Benyon through and Benyon slotted the ball home. The match had really come to life and Zebroski just before half-time nearly made it 2-2 - the shot was just wide.
The second half started similiarly to the first without many incidents but Torquay having the bulk of the possession. However Oxford's third goal was calamitous on Torquay's part. Zebroski, who had a disappointing game, gave the ball away down Torquay's right in his own half. There did not appear to be much danger but Bevan appeared to hesitate to come out and claim the ball. The next thing you saw was the ball travelling in slow motion and trickled over the line. What was all that about ? It might become clearer on the Football league show tonight. At 3-1 Torquay looked down and out and for a few minutes Oxford took over and could have embarrassed us.
On came Kee and Stevens for Lathrope and Hemmings and you have to say both subsitutes were outstanding, particularly Kee who gave a show stopping performance. At last there was some physical presence in attack and from one run inside the box Kee hit a low, hard shot that was parried by their keeper but Benyon was quickest to react - 3-2. The fight-back was now officically on ! Then after after an amazing series of one touch football involving a few players, Kee was put through. His shot deflected off a defender, looped over the keeper and into the net. The home fans were estactic and Torquay were on top. Sadly all the brilliance of the fightback was again undone. In injury Oxford had a a rare breakaway but you have to say our central defence looked wide open. Midson slotted home his hat-trick to the delight of the sizeable away support.
So where does this defeat leave us ? I have never seen us as serious promotion candidates and if we lose in the cup on Saturday, suddenly our season will look very flat. Ofcourse we have made good progress this season and it's great to be well away from the relegation zone. But not having a fit Branston, and no Charnock anymore has made me realise how thin our squad is. We are now gifting goals away but don't have many options to turn to.