Despite a positive start, Barnet`s poor recent performances continued as Oxford emerged comfortable 2-0 winners at Underhill.
awrie Sanchez named an unchanged side from the midweek victory over Plymouth while Chris Wilder`s Oxford lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation.
xford came to Underhill packing the middle with 3 big central midfielders, with pace on either flanks, and an aggressive right-back to force back Barnet`s main threat in Marshall.
Barnet began the game positively and soon penned Oxford back in the own half. Marshall`s pace worried Batt, while Mark Byrne`s long throw put Wright and Duberry under pressure. In particular, Oxford struggled to clear their lines from Byrne`s throws, and were slightly fortunate not to go behind when Hughes` shot was disallowed for handball.
Long throws are something that Barnet have clearly spent time preparing. In each instance, Leach and Kamdjo go up from the back to add an aerial threat in the box. However, as a result, Barnet are left devoid of any central defensive presence at the back. Leach, Kamdjo and Hughes all inside the area while Byrne takes the throw in.
aking the defensive spine out of the team leaves Barnet very open to counter attacks – something that was noted from the Plymouth game where they were sometimes outnumbered seconds after winning a corner.
t was little surprise then that Oxford`s opener, albeit against the run of play, came from a counter attack.
A harmless long ball was allowed to bounce first by Senda, and then by Kamdjo who was dragged out of the centre to cover the right back`s initial error.
amdjo let Potter past him and the wide-man`s cross was partially cleared by Parkes but fell to Heslop who had time to finish accurately beyond Brill.
xford, buoyed by the opener, quickly asserted control of possession, and their patient build up resulted in their second on 38 minutes.
Barnet failed to clear after a succession of crosses and Heslop lifted a lovely ball over Senda for Davis to volley home. While the quality of the strike was undisputed, again one of Barnet central defensive trio (Leach, Kamdjo, and here Hughes) was dragged wide while Marshall was too slow in picking up Davis` run.
Normally one to reserve substitutions for the latter stages of the game, Sanchez`s decision to make 2 changes at half time was a statement of intent. The withdrawal of the ineffective Charlie Taylor was unsurprising, but replacing Marshall was considering his pace and early success against Batt. Neither the entering Deering nor Kabba changed the match.
Sitting on a 2 goal lead, Wilder drew Heslop a little deeper and stifled the central space while Hall and Potter still offered Oxford pace on the counter. Hughes` 2 shots from outside the area were the two clearest chances as Barnet couldn`t penetrate the central lines in front of them.
Frustration grew and the long-ball game from Plymouth began as Duberry and Wright dealt with punts from Kamdjo, Parkes and Brill.
In a final act Sanchez withdrew the hobbling Senda for Owusu and went 4-3-3 with Hughes filling in at right-back. This seemed an odd decision as with only 1 central midfielder on the pitch, Barnet couldn`t provide any link between the back and front of the team (although Dennehy was the other option.) The final 20 minutes were predictable as Oxford, despite Wright`s soft dismissal, comfortably saw out consecutive away wins.
Barnet`s current 4-4-2 does not seem to suit the attacking flair that they have in the squad. With no defensive platform in midfield from which to base attacks, Barnet`s attacking play is based around the ball being worked wide to Marshall whose delivery remains weak. The game plan to beat the Bees is perhaps relatively simple.
Play a 4-3-3/ 4-5-1 with 2 sitting midfielders to win the ball in the air and stop service to McLeod`s feet, play a quick full-back to deal with Marshall, use 2 quick wide players on the counter to break from set pieces, and maybe a target man to drift left and win headers against the aerially weak Parkes.
Oxford themselves look a well organised League 2 side, perhaps lacking pace in the central midfield to be automatic contenders, but certainly a decent prospect for the play-offs. Unfortunately for Barnet, their victory on Saturday was both simple and comfortable.