Even before the game started, Warren and his henchmen could be seen ostentatiously warming up in front of the 1500-odd away fans in a synchronised routine of Olympian pretensions. Despite the officials’ exertions, we started the game brightly with the ref struggling to keep pace with our slick passing. Desperately seeking an opportunity to assert himself, he pounced when Marcus Browning’s legs became entangled with those of Louis, the lanky striker of an Oxford team only there to make up the numbers. Quite against the run of the play, he produced a yellow card for the innocuous challenge – a real opportunist strike and an early warning sign for what was to come.
Flushed with success, he now went looking for another chance to add to his tally. He soon had Browning in his sights again and was the first to react when the Boscombe midfielder played on for a fraction of a second after the Walsall man had blown his whistle for a foul. In a move obviously well rehearsed on the training ground, his hand shot to his pocket and he brandished yellow and red cards with dazzling rapidity. Only 18 minutes gone, and the ref had already established a commanding lead.
Despite this setback, the Cherries continued to pass the ball well and control the game, with Oxford clearly 3rd best. However, on the half hour things took a turn for the worse when Oxford capitalised on the opening created earlier by Mr. Warren and Whitehead scored from close range.
The half ended with the Cherries still looking the best side, but facing the daunting prospect of chasing the game with only ten men.
The second half was slightly more even, with Mr. Warren showing only the occasional flash of the form that had made him so dominant in the first period. Early on, Hayter had a good effort well saved by Woodman. O’Driscoll brought on Feeney and Holmes to replace Fletcher and Young respectively in an effort to turn the game. However, numerical superiority was beginning to tell and gaps started to appear in the Cherries’ rearguard. Debutant Blayney had to make a couple of good saves, but Oxford went further ahead in the 70th and 77th minutes with good strikes from Hunter and Oldfield – and with Mr. Warren a mere spectator.
Although we continued to try to pass the ball around, the game was now effectively over. An idiot among the away support lobbed a plastic bottle onto the pitch, or at least onto the touchline – Mr. Warren appeared undecided as to whether its entire circumference had crossed the line. A slight blemish on an otherwise impressive performance.
AFCB: Blayney, Purches, Tindall, Young (Holmes 70), C. Fletcher, Elliott, Browning, O’Connor, Thomas, S. Fletcher (Feeney 60), Hayter (Stock 79).
Subs not used: Petterson, Narada
Ellis Griffin, Chertsey