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
Frank Lampard was RIGHT not to celebrate Manchester City's equaliser against Chelsea
All Blacks Aaron Cruden misses New Zealand flight after drinking session, has brilliant excuse
Colombian women's cycling team kit that makes wearer appear naked is branded 'unacceptable' by UCI president
Five reasons why Louis van Gaal is a worse Manchester United manager than David Moyes
Comment: Louis Van Gaal struggled at start of Bayern reign, but Manchester United's problems run deeper and Premier League is less forgiving
- 2 Rihanna 'nude pictures' claims emerge on 4Chan as hacking scandal continues
- 3 Kim Kardashian 'nude photos' leaked on 4chan weeks after Jennifer Lawrence scandal
- 4 'F*ck it, I quit': KTVA reporter Charlo Greene quits live on air in spectacular fashion
- 5 Hitler’s former food taster reveals the horrors of the Wolf’s Lair
Scotland could still declare independence – even without referendum, says Alex Salmond
Scottish referendum results: Cross-party consensus collapses amid Tory-Labour spat on the 'English question'
Hilary Mantel 'should be investigated by police' over Margaret Thatcher assassination story, says Lord Bell
Scottish independence: David Cameron is becoming the 'George Bush of Britain'
Plebgate MP Andrew Mitchell called officer a 'little s**t', claim court documents 'exposing ex-Chief Whip's 'record of abusing police'
Archbishop of Canterbury admits doubts about existence of God
£21552 - £22552 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad Education ar...
£100 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Group: Part time Design and Technology...
£20000 - £25000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...
Negotiable: Randstad Education Bristol: Head of Department for English. Wiltsh...