Monday, 26 March 2012

On This Day - 26/03/07

It is with perhaps a sad irony that our 'On This Day' feature returns to recall that famous clash with Dagenham & Redbridge from our first season in the Conference. Dagenham, currently rooted to the bottom of the League Two table (at the time of writing before the weekend's fixtures), appear to be heading for their second successive relegation on their way back to the Conference. They have spent five years in the Football League, winning a shock promotion at Wembley over Rotherham United to earn themselves a place in League One, alongside the likes of Charlton and Sheffield Wednesday, before tumbling back down the ladder with a nosebleed.

United had made a storming start to the 06/07 season, and recorded early victories over the Daggers – who had soon established themselves as our closest competitors - in both league and cup. At the time of the second of these encounters, United were five points clear at the top.

However, soon after things began to go wrong. Our luck finally began to run out after our first defeat at Gravesend and where we had been scraping undeserved victories we were now being deservedly beaten. Dagenham, meanwhile, continued to string together victories, finally taking their place at the top of the table in time for the start of 2007. By the time they visited the Kassam, their lead had stretched to nine points.

The Sky cameras were in place to witness a nervy but incredible encounter, with both sides going for the win. Chances rained in for both sides, but it was Dagenham with the lead at half time, taking the lead in the 16th minute through Paul Benson, who capitalised on a rebounded shot from a corner. Dagenham gradually asserted superiority after this, but their good work was all but undone by Yemi Odubade, who put in probably his finest performance in a yellow shirt. Oxford, shooting towards the East Stand, began to turn the screw in the second half and on 70 minutes the scores were level. Odubade struck from the edge of the penalty area, through a crowd of defenders and into the corner of the net to send the Oxford fans wild. Things were about to get even hotter just two minutes later, as Daggers keeper Tony Roberts – inexplicably miles outside his area – made a total hash of his clearance. Yemi stole the ball from him and knocked it goalwards, sparking delirium in the stands as it inched towards the net. Oxford then laid seige to the Daggers' goal, with the visitors by this point appearing beaten. But the match was cruelly turned on its head in the last minute, a defensive slip falling to Sam Sloma, who blasted it underneath Billy Turley to salvage a point and with it effectively end Oxford's challenge for the title.


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