With Oxford United not in midweek action for the first time since January, Karl Robinson‘s side only had to focus on one game. However, Oxford against Sunderland was overshadowed by controversy, both on and off the field.
Oxford United Weekly-Up: Oxford Against Sunderland Overshadowed by Controversy
Black Cats Take All Three Points
Before the controversy, let’s begin with the game itself. Karl Robinson’s team were up against the division’s most in-form side. Lee Johnson’s men headed into the match unbeaten in their last 12 games in all competitions, which included nine wins.
Despite that, the U’s took a deserved lead after 20 minutes. Rangers loanee Brandon Barker burst through the centre of midfield before shifting the ball to the right, and James Henry struck first time into the bottom corner. However, Lynden Gooch equalised just before the break to send the teams in level.
After the restart, Oxford continued to threaten but with 30 minutes remaining came the turning point as Mark Sykes received a second yellow card, leaving the U’s to see out the game with ten men.
Oxford still created chances but conceded two late goals. First, Sunderland worked a quick free-kick which was finished off by Aiden McGeady before Max Power scored in stoppage time as the Black Cats launched a counter-attack with the U’s pushing for a late equaliser.
Controversial Refereeing Decisions and Half-Time Tunnel Altercations
Forgetting the result, this match was littered with controversy, with referee Trevor Kettle at the forefront of a lot of it. The man in the middle was arguably at fault for Sunderland’s second goal. Cameron Brannagan conceded a free-kick just outside the Oxford box but stayed down as a result of the challenge, but Kettle allowed a quick set-piece to be taken, which Sunderland scored from.
Naturally, Robinson was angered and following some choice words was correctly dismissed. Despite that, the officials’ performance was below par.
The match itself was a feisty affair, with Kettle dishing out three yellow cards in the first half before a further five and two reds in the second, including one to Robinson for his outburst.
Meanwhile, at half time with the scores level at 1-1, Oxford United goalkeeper Jack Stevens was headbutted by a member of the opposition, according to Karl Robinson.
Speaking to the Northern Echo, the U’s boss said: “My goalkeeper, he was head-butted at half-time.
“There was a massive brawl in there. It’s not just allegations, we have asked the police to come.
“Their players have seen it, our players have seen it. My player certainly felt it.
“But for some unknown reason, there is no footage. Ironic here, isn’t it? This club has had cameras for the last two years than any other club in football, yet there’s no cameras down in the tunnel at half-time.”
Black Cats boss Lee Johnson confirmed an incident during the interval but played down the severity of what happened.
But now, since the incident, Oxford have opted not to proceed with the complaint to Northumbria Police, according to Sky Sports.
U’s Are the Fourth-Highest Spenders of Agents’ Fees in League One
On Wednesday, the FA released figures showing how much clubs have spent on agents’ fees from February 1, 2020, to February 1, 2021. In League One, Oxford United spent £298,576 – more than double the £135,075 spent in the same period 12 months earlier.
As a result, the U’s were the fourth-highest spenders in all of League One, with Hull City, Sunderland and Ipswich Town leading the other clubs.
The transfers of Matty Taylor, Sam Winnall and Jordan Obita would have brought the biggest agents’ fees during that period, with the U’s signing a total of eight players during that time. Oxford also brought six players in on loan with agents’ fees increased for players including Liam Kelly and Marcus McGuane.