Tuesday, 6 March 2012

View from the Sofa: The A420 Derby

Saturday's derby victory over Swindon was a glorious moment for Oxford fans - a day to remember for everyone who was there to witness the first time we've secured the double over our rivals in 38 years. However, spare a thought for those exiled supporters who were unable to make it to the Kassam, resigned to listening in on the radio or following the match over the internet. Jack Shoemark, exiled up in Yorkshire, relives the high and lows of the day from his sofa in Hull.

It's 10:30am on Saturday 3rd March and I've just woken up (forgive me, I am a student). For me, the pre-match routine will be very different to those with a match ticket for the game this afternoon. No doubt, hundreds of Oxford fans are already in the Priory, sampling the delights of a Bacon roll and a few pints before heading across to the ground. In complete contrast, I have a bowl of Rice Krispies (other cereals are available) and a glass of orange juice in my room in a quiet house - my fellow housemates are yet to emerge from their rooms.

I have two options for the match itself: sit in my room with Yellow Player loud and clear and create my own atmosphere; or, take charge of the television downstairs and get the Radio Oxford commentary through Radio 5 Sports Extra, thus ensuring the whole house is aware of the battle taking place at the Kassam. The second option wins and I position myself in the dip of the sofa in the front room with the commentary loud and clear, Yellows Forum open on my laptop and the remote well out of reach in case any housemates have any ideas about changing the channel.

The team news has filtered upstairs to Jerome Sale, and I am surprised that Anthony Tonkin is in for Liam Davis and that Andy Whing is preferred to Harry Worley at centre back. Asa Hall and Mark Wilson being alongside each other in central midfield doesn't fill me with confidence either (harsh considering I've never seen Wilson play - must read Yellows Forum too much!)

The OUFC official site informs me that a huge surfer flag has been unveiled in the Oxford Mail stand - I donated to the making of that and look forward to seeing the pictures later on. Nick Harris has failed to realise his commentary is being broadcast to the whole country and is his usual frantic self as the match kicks off. A few stats about Swindon's winning run, the last game at the Kassam and our win at the County Ground in August are thrown out in a mental vomit. The atmosphere at the game sounds incredible, the atmosphere in my student house is non-existent, a few ripped up bits of yellow paper are scattered about but I draw the line at singing on my own.

I sink a bit lower into the sofa (not by choice, I think another spring has gone) and hope for a quiet first period of the game. Bang, that goes out the window as Beano is sent off for an apparent elbow on a Swindon player after only ten minutes. My feeling that perhaps there was some Swindon involvement in the decision is confirmed once I see the highlights on the Football League Show. The sight of the Swindon keeper with a clenched fist as the referee showed his red card is not something you want to see from any professional footballer - regardless of how high profile the fixture is. I'm cursing our luck, a bit too loudly it would seem, as my housemate wanders in asking if I'm alright - when I explain Oxford are playing, he shrugs - he's used to me disappearing at weekends to Macclesfield, Burton and Rotherham to name a few. My shouts of joy moments later confuse him more as Asa Hall scores the opening goal. 'One goal up with only ten men, can it get any better', I think to myself. Of course it can! Oli Johnson doubles our lead and I find myself jumping around the living room before charging into the kitchen to celebrate. I think, for the first time since Alfie Potter scoring the third goal at Wembley and hugging a man painted in Yellow, I have reached a level of euphoria so great that something takes over me.

Somehow, we struggle through to half time, I'm now on the sofa very subdued and another housemate comes in asking what's wrong:

"We've only got ten men with 45 minutes left"
"You're winning two nil though"
"Yes but we're Oxford United"

The second half passes slowly, it's far too like the second half of our playoff final with York after Ryan Clarke dropped the ball into his own net. I'm incredibly nervous, half expecting a Swindon goal to make the closing stages unbearable but somehow we get through them and the huge cheer that comes booming through the speakers tells me that the game has finished and we've done the double over Swindon!

Jerome is giddy with joy and Nathan Cooper is on the pitch trying to grab as many players as he can to get a word with, it's like we've won the FA Cup. To be fair, it's a fantastic feeling and the team that played will go into the history books for being the first team to do the double over Swindon for however long. The phone-in starts with delirious Oxford fans ringing in and then owner Ian Lenagan being interviewed live on air.

I'm sure my immediate celebrations will be very different to the 10,000 plus Oxford fans who were at the game. I've got tutorial work to do, but I know that come the evening, I will very much enjoy a night out.

I don't think I would have been able to handle sitting at the Kassam, the second half at Wembley until 90+1 minutes was far too nerve-wracking. But we won and, as the tweets on Twitter were reading, "we beat the scum two nil".

This piece was originally written for Jack's blog, Captainox Comments. Be sure to check it out here.


Quality article, and what a day!

Post a Comment