For the opening quarter of an hour yesterday we were like an angsty teenager with a persecution complex. There was lots of niggly arguing with the ref, anger at innocuous challenges. It was as though we were pre-empting failure, assuming that some greater force had decided our destiny. We’ve failed so many times in these must-win games our demeanor was all about built up frustration and anger.
Like the teenager, every minor set back is laden with the failures of the past. A bad decision is the decision, plus our capitulation a couple of years ago, plus relegation from the league, plus Firoz Kassam, plus Steve Anthrobus and every other disaster bestowed on us in the last decade. We don’t have a bedrock of confidence to work from. So, Histon’s goal was offside, or was it? It was marginal. But this is Oxford and marginals work against us.
Then Billy Turley, the ultimate fatalist professional footballer, with confidence entwined into his DNA, collapses under a challenge. Brilliantly hammed up, it was laughable. Silly Billy, he should have been booked. But Turley works differently; if you don’t ask you don’t get. And we got. Red card. Billy’s ‘recovery’ marked with a backward roll. See what happens when you have a bit of confidence, you go out on a limb and get what you want.
It acted like a defibrillator injecting confidence through the team, and at once we realized that we are good and we just had to let the quality flow and not force it. That said, a goal up with 10 men, the Histon game plan was clear. Defend. The game turned into defence versus attack and for long periods it was getting a bit formulaic. Exciting, but it was beginning to look like Histon would hold out, if not for a win, at least for a draw.
But, if Wilder’s team has anything, it’s patience. I, like many, were waiting for the introduction of Yemi. Desperate times lead to desperate measures and we needed Yemi to produce another 10 minutes of, decidedly un-formulaic magic, like he did ”against Dagenham a couple of years ago. But Wilder trusts his instincts, and so he should. The breakthrough came. We actually won a must-win game and that is just not the Oxford way. The end was an odd anti-climax – 3 minutes of injury time was reasonable, we played it out. The whistle went – some of us old lags were still waiting for Histon to lash in an equalizer from 40 yards.
If this season does end successfully and its legacy is buried with ‘96, ‘86, ‘85, ‘84 and other great seasons, then it will be sealed with a label entitled “The curious ‘death’ of Billy Turley”.