Cameron Brannagan is already enjoying another stellar season for Oxford United. 14 appearances, four goals and four assists as the U’s sit second in League One.
However, it’s not often that Brannagan doesn’t feature for the club but they weren’t at their best with the midfielder recently out with illness.
The 27-year-old missed the draw against Blackpool and the defeat at Wigan before returning as a second-half substitute in the draw against Wycombe.
However, he returned to the starting line-up against Lincoln as the U’s picked up their first win in his absence.
Cameron Brannagan: Player in Focus
Blackpool and Wigan
It was a shame that the first game Brannagan missed through illness came against Blackpool. The Seasiders have spent several seasons trying to sign the former Liverpool man before the midfielder eventually spoke to the club. However, he rejected the offer, returned to Oxford and signed a new deal with the U’s.
On the pitch, Oxford were arguably the better side, particularly in the first half. The midfield duo of Josh McEachran and Marcus McGuane didn’t look phased, despite it being the former’s first start since the second game of the season.
However, after the restart, the visitors began to grow into the game. Illness had clearly affected a couple of the players and fatigue began to creep in. With McEachran being a more defensive-minded midfielder than Brannagan, the U’s started to drop deeper.
If Brannagan played in this game, he may have been able to influence the team to push up and add a second goal having taken a first-half lead, but Blackpool netted an injury-time equaliser.
Against Wigan, it was the same midfield duo. Again, they rarely put a foot wrong and Oxford were by far the better side but it was one of the nights where nothing quite clicked.
The U’s outplayed their opponents but were unable to convert, with Wigan scoring twice from their only two real opportunities.
Again, Brannagan could have made the difference with his influence on and off the ball. He was clearly a miss for those two fixtures.
Read More: Oxford United Weekly Round-Up: Defeat And Draw For The U’s
For the first time in two games, Brannagan made a return to the bench. Clearly, he wasn’t quite ready otherwise he would have started, but he would feature against Wycombe.
Like in the Blackpool game, Oxford took a deserved lead but Wycombe equalised from a controversial penalty.
Brannagan replaced McEachran, who had started for a third game in a row, with 15 minutes left but shortly after, the U’s conceded yet another controversial spot-kick. Wycombe dispatched it and took the lead.
However, Brannagan rallied the troops. There was only going to be one team to score another goal and that would be Oxford. It came down to an injury-time penalty for the U’s which Brannagan calmly and confidently dispatched to secure a point. His influence was certainly there.
Oxford would end their three-game winless run with a 2-0 victory at Lincoln. An Oxford win and a Brannagan return.
It was an easy display for the U’s with the Imps really not offering much but it was another brilliant display from Brannagan and you could see what they had missed in recent weeks.
While a lot of his work will go unnoticed, the midfielder is constantly driving, covering, moving the ball, varying passes and having a go from distance if it’s on. He offers something different to McEachran and McGuane and is clearly a miss when he’s not there.
Cameron Brannagan: Hoping to Gain Promotion With Oxford United
With the win secured, Oxford remain second in League One but now just three points behind Portsmouth.
He’s had his opportunities to leave and play Championship football but he is happy in Oxford, both on and off the pitch. If the U’s do go up, and they’ve come close on two occasions under Karl Robinson, Brannagan will be an important reason as to why.