Last night’s 2-2 draw means Karl Robinson’s men have one win in their last eight games across all competitions, but the boss remains pleased with his team’s efforts on a difficult away night – marred by injury, family bereavement and more besides.
It took Dan Agyei just a minute to make his presence felt off the substitutes’ bench in an eventful second-half, with the 22-year-old’s effort bundling over the line during a period of dominance from the visitors. He now has two League One goals this term, the other coming during a similar sub appearance against Southend in late November.
Despite his ability, the striker has now played just 91 minutes of league football this season – leading to many supporters calling for him to feature more regularly.
After all, Dan was highly rated during his teenage years at AFC Wimbledon. West Ham, Chelsea and Fulham were all said to be monitoring his progress, before he made the bold decision to join Burnley on a long-term deal. Following three loan spells elsewhere, Agyei departed for pastures new last summer and Oxford potentially have a gem on their hands. Robinson is aware of that, delivering an honest assessment post-match.
On whether he’s a useful impact player: “Yes he is, but there’s so much to his game still to improve. We’ve always said he’s one for the future, not for now. There’s so much he’s lacking at stages but it will come with age, experience and we know we have a half-decent player in there – just need to manage his development.”
Robinson’s stern teamtalk brings angry, motivated response
After a frustrating half where they failed to take their chances and fell behind, Oxford were much improved immediately from the restart. Passing was crisp, players were making probing runs and posed more problems for the hosts to contend with, as they were pinning them back into their defensive third. Robinson’s teamtalk did the trick:
“It was one of those games we had to work hard on the touchline. We had to get the tactical aspect of the game spot on second-half, and I thought the players who came on made a big difference.
My players are very good people and I’ll back them. They know how stern the words were at half-time, little things were said and I thought we played angry second-half. We had some anger but have to find that internally at the beginning of games.”
Situation far from ideal with injuries, suspensions and more
Upon reflection, Robinson needed perspective after his side’s last-gasp equaliser given the circumstances. Liam Kelly (hamstring) limped off after 20 minutes, there was a sudden change through family bereavement before leaving the team hotel while they’re now without another midfielder for their home clash with Sunderland on Saturday.
“If you look at our preparations ahead of this game: we lose Jamie Mackie 20 minutes before getting on the coach, Kelly early in the game and Alex Gorrin booked – he’s now suspended for Saturday.
Things could have gone a lot better for us, we are getting a few jabs at the moment and there are so many things I’m both proud and frustrated about. That’s nothing to do with my players nor the fans, they’ve given me everything again.”
Taylor reaps reward after late personnel changes
Matty Taylor got the final touch on Oxford’s stoppage-time equaliser and although it will naturally boost morale ahead of another important game, Robinson revealed he wasn’t supposed to start.
“The goal is massive for him. I felt he was on the periphery of the game today, looked a little bit off it and wasn’t due to play. He was meant to be rested because he’s struggling a little, the plan was he’d come on for the last 25 minutes.
He’s been out for a long time and we can’t afford to lose him either. But he prepared the right way, was ready when called upon. He scored and needs that confidence.”
Oxford host 5th-placed Sunderland in another important fixture on Saturday. Robinson didn’t shy away from his disappointment at the fact they haven’t picked up enough points in this latest block of fixtures, though they must re-assess and understand that their playoff push remains in their hands. There is still three months left of the season.
Moving forward, taking each game as it comes is their only option. Sunderland were 3-0 winners over Rochdale last night and have proven tough to beat since mid-December: one loss in their last twelve games, with seven clean sheets in that time.
Pictures’ source: Oxford Mail