MICKEY Lewis says that it was particularly satisfying to see Oxford United’s hard work on the training ground pay off in the win over Northampton.
Although recent performances have been good, results had not gone their way.
And the U’s assistant manager knows how important it was for various aspects of the U’s game to come together on Saturday.
Even more pleasing though, was the fact that opposition manager Aidy Boothroyd highlighted the tactical astuteness of United as a key factor in the win.
Boothroyd admitted that his side had been surprised by some of Oxford’s tactics.
At corners, throw-ins and other set-pieces, United pushed their three smallest men up to the halfway line in a bid to force the visitors to bring men back.
That cleared the penalty area, which allowed the U’s defence and goalkeeper Ryan Clarke more space in which to clear their lines.
And it worked, with Adebayo Akinfenwa – the focal point of Northampton’s game – only having one real attempt on goal late in the second half, and that from a regulation cross rather than set-piece.
“Northampton are very good at set-pieces and have scored something like 11 goals from the long throw,” Lewis said.
“We have got Jake Forster-Caskey, Alfie Potter and Sean Rigg who are very good players, but are clearly not the biggest or strongest players in the air so sometimes you wonder if there’s any point them being back defending them.
“So we thought we’d stick three up front and then Northampton have to bring men back, and that takes a bit of pressure off in the area.
“I thought we dealt with them well.”
Lewis added that he also felt the substitution boss Chris Wilder made ten minutes from time played a part in ensuring the three points.
Harry Worley came on for Sean Rigg to sit just in front of the defence and help ease the danger as Northampton looked for a late equaliser.
“I have got to say our manager is first-class, and I am really delighted for him we got that result,” Lewis said.
“He – and the rest of the staff – work 24/7, win or lose, to try and make sure we get the results.
“It was a good tactical change from the manager bringing Harry (Worley) on in the position he did.
“That helped us see out the game, which I thought we did very well.”
He added: “When you are on a bad run there are always going to be parts of your game that are not just clicking. “I thought Beano (James Constable) was terrific. We are at our best when we are closing people down, but that’s not always easy to do after a couple of defeats.
“We say we defend from the front and attack from the back, and we did that which was very pleasing.”