The so-called “new manager bounce” often witnesses a temporary flourish in results as players strive to impress a new gaffer. Those who follow the 3s results will have noted the absence of such a fillip despite the appointment of seasoned campaigner, Nicholas Lamb, as the new coach.
I had wondered if the faltering start could be put down to his mostly youthful charges struggling to get to grips with the advanced techniques the coach has employed. Early innovations including the introduction of a tactical white board and game based warm ups had been met with some bemusement. Those that know him will be aware that Nick is a determined sort and, as he reminded me before the push back this week, ‘Arsene Who?’ was the cry when Wenger arrived at Arsenal in September 1996 from Grampus Eight before he led the Invincibles to the title in his second year at Highbury as it was then.
Initial prognoses however didn’t bode well. Oxford were hitherto invincible/unbeaten and we were only beaten in the first four games of the season.
Any misgivings I had internalised on this front were summarily dashed, for this was a really gritty collective performance with some notable individual contributions. The first half was a nip and tuck affair with Oxford largely in the ascendancy but struggling to create any clear-cut chances thanks to Hawks’ obstinate defence from 1 to 11. Goalkeeper Will, Anton and Jonny at the back personified Hawks’ approach. Anton provided the game’s champagne moment; compensating for his centre back partner’s failing legs by tracking back 70 yards to execute a quite brilliant last-ditch tackle and prevent a gilt-edged opportunity.
The game finally opened up with about 20 to go with both sides now more regularly winning corners and finding goal shots easier to come by. The more fluid nature of the match gave opportunity to our midfield and attack to become influential. Arthur and Robbie in particular caught the eye in much the same way as their fathers had done 40 years prior with Arthur rightly picking up MOM for his guile and class in possession. Chances continued to come and go with our best falling to Pickup who excitedly blazed over after good work from Matt; another creditable performer on the day.
Ultimately, we were undone by a well taken goal on the back post but, in truth, we didn’t create enough chances at the other end to warrant the three points.
Research by the 21st Club says 75 percent of the managerial bounce is down to luck with the other 25 percent to do with fixtures, players returning from injury and a lift in spirits in the dressing room. Onto next week then where the challenge is to add some substance in the final third to the industry. Rumour has it that our numbers may be bolstered by another couple of washed up old pros; Robbo is considering rolling out once again after his sojourn in the Welsh hills and there is every sign that the squad is beginning to respond to our pioneering visionary. Time to bounce.