This is a difficult one to write. So let's take it in themes...
Grays had a poor game. Oxford were gifted their first two goals in the 8th minute when Kevin Sandwith pounced on a Tony Dinning error three yards out following a free kick just outside the area.
In the 28th minute, dangerous striker James Constable exposed a mis-understanding by the pedestrian Dinning to cut out a pass back, round Rob Beckwith and put Oxford 2-0 up.
Stuart Elliott saw red after a second yellow card in the 41st. Rob Beckwith was hospitalised after an accidental collision with Lewis Haldane. James Constable put Oxford 3-0 up.
Grays rolled their sleeves up in the second half and pulled one back after Dinning fired a free kick home, but Oxford restored the three goal lead when Adam Chapman struck home after a fine piece of one-touch play from a team who are making a real push for the play-off’s.
The Injury To Rob Beckwith:
In the 41st minute, Rob Beckwith went for a ball on the right hand side of his area. Lewis Haldane challenged and it appeared that his leg struck Beckwith’s face.
Beckwith lay still. It was apparent that something was wrong. It is at moments like this that events should run like clockwork.
For 42 minutes, referee McLaughlin had been pedantically blowing his whistle in that 'wee man' way of saying “I’m in charge”. The moment the accidental collision happened his authority drained away and at the vital moment that he should have been in control of the situation, he became a peripheral character.
He firstly waved play on. Eventually, physio Becky Nunn was allowed to get on the pitch. She immediately signaled for medics to come on.
Again, the referee appeared to be a peripheral character here. Becky frantically signaled again. The medical staff eventually recognised what this signal meant and ambled on to the pitch. And we do mean amble. There seemed to be no intent to run or get to the motionless footballer as soon as possible.
The Grays fans were clearly agitated. Whatever happened in the Oxford stand is unsure but the staff were informed of a Code Blue (fight in the yellow stand).
Rob received the treatment his situation merited. One may have expected an ambulance to appear near to where he lay but Rob was then treated to a mini tour of the Kassam Stadium.
YourThurrock trusts that there will be an enquiry regarding all the circumstances.
It was good to hear that he was out of hospital by 7pm and should be back in training in 7 Days.
The Sending Off:
Stuart Elliott had an excellent game at Kettering. Having been out for such an amount of time he showed great application but he is competitive / combative and makes Paul Scholes seem like a perfect timer of tackling.
He did not mean to get sent off but for a Player-Coach to act with such recklessness was negligent in the extreme. What example was this in a crisis?
This is where “Nice Guy” Gary Philips may come up short. Should he have recognised that Elliott was on a mission to be sent off and subbed him? But tactical substitutions are not Gary’s strong point and he left him on the park to be sent off for a second yellow in the 41st minute.
It gave Kenny Davis a chance to come on and produce another sterling job. Why Kenny cannot get a starting berth is a mystery. Then again, we asked the same question regarding Ernie last year.
He made a basic error to give Cambridge the lead but made up for it (ish) with a free kick. This time he made two basic errors and didn't make up for it even though he scored. His pace was cruelly exposed by class attackers. League 1 and 2 clubs have been looking at Adam Chambers as James Constable is one of the best strikers in the BSP.
At the same time Vidic had an awful game at Old Trafford. The bottom line is that he will be exposed by pace at the back.
Grays got away with it against Kettering (whose defeat at home on Sat may put the Grays game in perspective). From the very beginning Barry Cogan and the hapless Bradley Hudson-Odoi had no intention of tracing back.
The team were playing a suicidal 4-2-4 leaving George Beavan in particular exposed to Yemi Obudabe.
Indeed the first goal came from Tony Dinning fouling on the right flank but with Cogan standing near Andy Pugh. If there was ever a game to park the bus at worst or which required two lines of four then this was it. Grays were the architects of their own downfall.
Bradley has talent but like Stefan Bailey at Crawley in September, he seemed to crumble to pieces. He threatened Damian Batt several times but had no concept of working the flank and the towel was thrown in for him on 44 minutes.
To be fair he could have been playing out of position. The bottom line is that if you play this formation against Histon and Burton this month it will be exposed again but especially the crucial crucial game against Mansfield.
The Second Half:
Oxford lost their fluency somewhat and should have made it five or six. Grays worked really hard. Stuart Thurgood worked so hard - as did many others. Barry Cogan never gave up. Nobody gave up.
Luckily, the other strugglers had a 'bad day at the office' as well. The wheels have come off Histon’s season but what is more important is the coaching staff have to read the game and adapt accordingly.
Finally, apologies for filming Gary Philips in darkness but we thought he may want to embrace the 'witness protection' style of interview. Or perhaps we just had a 'bad day at the office' as well...
Report by Michael Casey
Thanks to Your Thurrock for the match report