What a game that was. The only thing missing was a goal and lord knows we should have had at least one of those. I didn’t attend Rotherham so I’m not privy to their overall performances beyond what others told me. So, I was nervous yet also excited coming into yesterday and boy did they deliver. But who were the standouts and how did our new look team perform in front of the home crowd?
Let’s get into the Player Ratings:
Remi Matthews - 7.0
Boy did he need that clean sheet. While he’s had his mistakes so far this season, I think he’s been unfairly scapegoated a bit too much by Bolton fans but I digress. Regarding his performance in this game, he’s had it a lot easier this game than previously. He only had to make one save of real significance, a header in the 2nd half heading for the top-right corner. Outside of that, he stuck to his task, passing well from the back with his backline and clearing the ball effectively when Oxford were pressing. Hope he builds from this.
Josh Emmanuel - 7.5
Apparently he was woeful at Rotherham. Clearly whatever he’s done though in the days since that game, has completely transformed him because he was quite decent. While you can tell he’s definitely better going forward than defending, I had no issues with that because he always ran back quickly to defend any Oxford threats and didn’t let their tricky winger Fosu get past him without a fight. He linked up well with Politic going forward and has a good turn of pace on him. Brockbank will have a fight on his hands to get back in the team if he keeps this up.
Jack Hobbs - 8.0
The big man was very reliable and solid at the back and there was a calmness to his play that I’ve never really seen from him before. He even hot-dogged Oxford’s 2 attackers in a high pressure moment before winning a free-kick. Lovely stuff from a normally brutish centre-half. Speaking of brutish though, he was dominant in the air and put his body on the line constantly to block Oxford attempts. He even showed some passing prowess with some good link-up play with himself and the midfield. Great display.
Jake Wright - 7.5
Good stuff from the Blades loanee. Like his counterpart, he put his body on the line for the cause and didn’t give their attackers a moments rest. Not as dominant in the air but always making himself available for passes and rarely saw him pass backwards unless absolutely necessary. Really buying into Keith Hill’s philosophy of trying to play progressive, forward football. Keep it up.
Adam Chicksen - 8.0
Bradford must have got a different Adam Chicksen because this apparent “worst left-back they’ve ever had” was anything but. Covering so much ground and never letting James Henry past him easily. My only real nitpick was that he could’ve done a better job stopping crosses. Outside of that though, he never panicked and his passes nearly always found their mark, especially when linking up with Verlinden. He keeps up this kind of performance and we’ll be begging to extend his deal beyond January.
Liam Bridcutt - 9.0
This lad is way too good for L1. You can just tell from way he plays the ball and the way he reads the game that he’s complete different gravy to a lot of the players around him. I don’t remember him putting a foot wrong. His passes were always progressive, he always put himself in space to receive the ball and he was relentless in chasing down the opposition and tackling them when we didn’t have the ball. A concrete example of a captains performance and I already pray we extend his loan beyond January.
Dennis Politic - 7.0
The first half an hour, he was a menace to the Oxford defence and was ferocious in getting forward. After that and his weird shinpad debacle with Hill and Flitcroft, he seemed to struggle a bit. Their left back (who I swear slipped about 5 times during that 1st half) Ruffels started to suss him out and made it much more difficult for Politic to do what he does best. He never let it get him down though and he kept going at his task and also started to show a bit more growth by playing more sensible passes to teammates when in trouble. Not his best day but not a bad one.
Jason Pirlowe - 8.0
I would never have thought that Jason Lowe would look more comfortable as more attacking midfielder but stranger things have happened I suppose. Playing some wonderful forward (yes, you read that right) passes to his teammates and even having 2 very close efforts on goal himself, Lowe might be a player reborn under Keith Hill in this slightly more advanced midfield role. However, he also didn’t slack in his defensive duties as well, making some good tackles and interceptions. Very good day at the office.
Ali Crawford - 7.5
I feel bad giving Crawford the lowest rating out of the centre-midfielders because he was quite a tidy player himself. It’s just a testament to their cohesion in midfield I suppose. Anyway, the little scot made a complete nuisance of himself to the Oxford defenders, supporting Buckley whenever possible up top. His link-up play was exquisite and proved a great outlet to keep attacks ticking. Energetic and with a great-eye for attacking moves, he was quality. Work on that set-piece delivery though lad.
Thibaud Verlinden - 8.5
One of the LOV writers had the nerve to say this lad would be another Wellington Silva (I’m calling you out Tom). I never saw Wellington Silva be this effective. Had one of the closest chances to grab a goal and linked up tremendously with the midfield and Chicksen. Even when Oxford started to dual mark him after the first half and hour or so, he proved a tricky customer for their defence and kept bombing at them constantly. You can see why Stoke were gutted to see him leave. Very exciting and hope there’s more to come.
Will Buckley - 7.5
Bucko as the squad seem to know him as, has had his fair share of criticisms from the past 2 seasons and to be honest, a lot of them were justified. If this performance is anything to go by though, he’s definitely eager to make amends. Looking much more at home in the center as the makeshift striker for the game, he displayed confidence and some proper grit to challenge the tough Oxford backline, even coming out successful on occasion. With some really smart runs and good link-up play, Buckley might just prove the theory true that some players are just suited for certain managers. If only he scored that goal but alas, it wasn’t to be.
James Weir - 6.5
Only coming on really so Verlinden could get a well-deserved rest and ovation, Weir did what he had to do and did it well. Unlucky to see a shot deflected wide late in the game.