• Mon. May 27th, 2024

Cheltenham Town 1-2 Oxford United – Oxford Mail verdict

Byoxfordnewspaper

Aug 28, 2022

“YOU know how hard we worked to keep him here.”

That was Karl Robinson’s response when asked if retaining Cameron Brannagan was Oxford United’s best piece of business this summer, following the midfielder’s match-winning performance at Cheltenham Town.

Today marks a month since the 26-year-old appeared set to join Blackpool, only to sign a new contract instead.

READ MORE: Oxford United boss 'didn't watch' Cameron Brannagan penalty

Brannagan already had talismanic status before his dramatic U-turn and his crucial double at Cheltenham showed why United were so willing to push the boat out to keep him.

The U’s have made a disappointing start to the campaign and, other than the opening ten minutes, they toiled against an ordinary opponent.

So, when Taylor Perry put the Robins ahead just after the hour mark – United conceding from a set-piece for the second away game in a row – there were shades of last season's 1-0 defeat here for Robinson's side.

The U's had not won from behind this term and you feared for a third successive 1-0 loss on the road.

It was so important that they responded quickly and Brannagan did so in style. There will not be many better goals in English football this weekend.

Billy Bodin's sending-off put United at a disadvantage and whether you agree with either booking or not, the forward should have known better than to lunge in on Ben Williams on a yellow card.

RATINGS: Every Oxford United player marked out of 10 for display at Cheltenham

But the U’s deserve credit for the way they reacted, tactically and mentally.

It is common for teams to go 4-4-1 when they are reduced to ten men, particularly if they are protecting a point, but Robinson kept two strikers on the pitch in Matty Taylor and Kyle Joseph.

Further back, John Mousinho and Alex Gorrin came on to ensure a 4-3-2 formation remained secure and they saw the game out well.

Taylor showed his mental strength in his 45-minute cameo, having been left out of the starting XI.

The striker made a nuisance of himself, winning the equalising free-kick and ensuring the linesman saw Sean Long’s late shirt-pull in the penalty area – even if referee Charles Breakspear did not.

Robinson praised the official for awarding the spot-kick, but the decision would have felt like a punch to the gut if it had happened at the other end.

WATCH: Cameron Brannagan's winner and the other key moments

There are not many players in the country you would rather have on spot-kick duty than Brannagan and it was great to see him celebrate in front of the travelling support.

Whether you are competing at the top of the table or fighting relegation, this was the type of win every team needs over the course of a season. It is also the type of win United do not seem to produce regularly enough.

You would expect the squad to look a little different by the time the U's are next in Sky Bet League One action, with transfer deadline day falling between now and Saturday's home game against Burton Albion.

If Robinson gets the players he wants, everything will start to look brighter after a tough first month of the season.