Football: Byrne lights bright spark
Sunday 14 November 1993
Derby County . . . .0
NEW ARRIVALS invariably revive expectations. Matt Elliott and John Byrne orchestrated a winning start to their Manor Ground careers yesterday, the cut-price recruits helping beleaguered Oxford record their first victory in seven League matches - a well-merited result that lifted them off the foot of the First Division and again cast a doubt on Derby's Premiership pretensions.
Oxford's cut from the deal that took their former player Mark Stein from Stoke City to Chelsea enabled Denis Smith to invest pounds 50,000 in Millwall's Byrne and pounds 170,000 in Elliott, Scunthorpe's imposing centre-half. The Stein windfall may have saved Oxford's season as no other transfer funds were available to Smith, such is the parlous state of the club's finances.
'We had hard-working players here,' Smith said. 'But now with the new players we have enough ability to go up the table.' Elliott, who made the two-division jump with nonchalant ease, showed his considerable talent three minutes after he and Byrne had received an enthusiastic reception. When Byrne, a lively and much-needed inventive presence in United's front line, was fouled on the right, Elliott, 6ft 3in and as solidly constructed as an Oxford college, marched forward towards the London Road end. Joey Beauchamp's centre was superb and Elliott charged through Derby's much vaunted back four to head narrowly over - a miss, but nonetheless an accurate foretaste of what was in store.
After Paul Kitson and Tommy Johnson had gone close only to be denied by, respectively, Philip Whitehead, the hosts' keeper, and Elliott, Oxford took the lead on the half-hour. Elliott, having readjusted his radar, made no mistake this time. He connected powerfully with Beauchamp's free-kick and his downward header flew past Martin Taylor in the Derby goal.
The breakthrough instilled immediate self-belief in the Oxford camp. Combining commitment in pursuit of the ball with composure in possession, Smith's pleasing and cheaply assembled side made a mockery of Derby's millionaires' club.
The contrast between the accomplished Elliott and County's pounds 2.5m stopper, Craig Short, was poignant.
In the second half, Oxford further emasculated the Rams. Short brought down a fast-moving Chris Allen to give Jim Magilton a chance from the penalty spot, which he promptly squandered. 'Seventeen successful kicks and now he has missed two in a row,' Smith smiled. His sterling captain made amends with a fierce free-kick from 30 yards after John Harkes had fouled Nick Cusack.
Latest in Sport
Louis van Gaal says he is inheriting a 'broken' Manchester United squad
Luckless Abou Diaby full of confidence as he attempts yet another Arsenal comeback
Manchester City's #AskJesus Twitter takeover quickly descends into chaos as Premier League champions are trolled relentlessly
Manchester United latest: Angel Di Maria move no closer as Juan Mata emerges as Louis van Gaal's favoured No 10 as prospect of signing
Arsenal transfer news: Versatile Calum Chambers is a 'gamble', admits Arsene Wenger as Arsenal spending passes £50m
- 1 Woman and two children killed by mob in riots over 'blasphemous' Facebook post in Pakistan
- 2 Christians: The world's most persecuted people
- 3 The secret report that helps Israelis to hide facts
- 4 Danish TV reporter is all business up top, all party down below
- 5 Denmark bans kosher and halal slaughter as minister says ‘animal rights come before religion’
The secret report that helps Israelis to hide facts
A day in the life of Vladimir Putin: The dictator in his labyrinth
Were 'Poor Doors' added to mixed developments so wealthy residents don't have to go in alongside social housing tenants?
A new Russian revolution: The cracks are starting to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Arizona execution lasts two hours as killer Joseph Wood left 'snorting and gasping' for air
Opponents of Israel's military operation in Gaza are the real enemies of Middle Eastern peace
£26000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful international media organ...
£35000 - £41000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: QA Manager -...
Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: LONDON - BANKING / PROPERTY FINANCE - ...
£28000 - £30000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: An ambitious...