• Mon. May 27th, 2024

Plymouth Argyle 1-0 Oxford United – Oxford Mail verdict

Byoxfordnewspaper

Sep 14, 2022

WE are only eight games into the Sky Bet League One season and a familiar pattern is already materialising.

Oxford United’s 1-0 defeat at Plymouth Argyle, their third in four away matches, followed a similar script to the losses at Derby County and Bristol Rovers.

Other than a promising first half at Pride Park on the opening day, the U’s have not threatened consistently enough to pick up points on the road.

RATINGS: Every Oxford United player marked out of 10 for Plymouth performance

A common theme is their lack of firepower off the bench, with Marcus Browne – who is not yet fully fit – the only certified game-changer to come on at Home Park.

The fact that Argyle could afford to bring off key attackers Danny Mayor and Ryan Hardie with 30 minutes left showed the difference in the dugouts. That was emphasised when their replacements, Niall Ennis and Morgan Whittaker, were both involved in the winning goal.

Karl Robinson continues to point to United’s injury list in mitigation and a fully-fit Matty Taylor, Sam Baldock, Josh Murphy and Yanic Wildschut would surely make a huge difference going forward.

In a world where clubs are allowed to make five substitutes, having those players available would stop the U’s running out of steam like they have done in their three away defeats so far.

Taylor, Baldock and Murphy are supposed to be close to returning and it will be interesting to see how much United’s style changes with them in the team.

WATCH: Highlights of last night's game

It has been said before, but this season’s side is very different to last. Robinson has worked hard on making the U’s more defensively secure, yet this seems to have blunted their threat at the other end of the pitch.

United have switched from 4-3-3 to 3-5-2 out of necessity, but they are a shadow of the team that looked so dangerous in the latter formation for a short spell last term.

The U’s have shored up at the back compared to last season and remain the best in the league for Expected goals (xG) against, which stands at just 3.10 after last night’s games.

Tellingly, the xG against from set-pieces has increased from 0.67 to 1.02 after Plymouth let them off the hook several times.

United rarely picked up on the hosts’ corner routines and Argyle midfielder Finn Azaz was particularly guilty of failing to make them pay.

READ MORE: Karl Robinson's assessment of Plymouth defeat

Plymouth were wasteful and should have scored more, although when they did find the net it came from a shot that Simon Eastwood probably should have kept out.

Argyle breathed a sigh of relief when Kyle Joseph missed from close range and on another night the narrative might have been all about a battling draw against a high-flying side who are yet to drop a point at home.

It is 17 days until United are next on the road, taking on Charlton Athletic at a ground where they played their opponents off the park just seven months ago.

Robinson will hope the injury list is significantly shorter by then as he seeks to break a familiar cycle away from home.