On this day 50 years ago, Oxford celebrated one of the most momentous days in the club's history. On August 18th 1962, almost 70 years after the club was formed, Oxford United played their first ever Football League match.
United had first applied for election to the Football League in 1952, just three years after turning professional.That attempt was unsuccessful, but the club kept trying and applied every year from 1955 onwards. The club's big break came in 1962, when Accrington Stanley resigned from the League. Oxford, champions of the Southern League, were elected with 39 votes and the city celebrated with a civic reception being held to celebrate the club's achievement.
Our first glamour tie in the Football League was a trip to Barrow's Holker Street ground. For Oxford's first ever season in a national league, our first away trip couldn't have been much further. Barrow were a decent side at the time, having finished 9th the previous season, and were particularly strong at home.
United took the lead after 25 minutes with Graham Atkinson scoring on the rebound, but within a minute the two sides were back level again. The lead was restored before the break with a headed goal from Bud Houghton and we spent much of the second half playing the ball around attractively. However, with ten minutes to go the defence sat back deep to defend the lead and Barrow levelled the scores in the 82nd minute. In the 87th minute the comeback was complete as Barrow scored a scrappy winner, leaving the travelling fans to make the long journey home empty handed ( an experience that has unfortunately been repeated in more recent years!).
This is what an Oxford fan who went to the game had to say about the day:
“I was lucky enough – I didn't think it at the time because it was such a dreadful journey, the coach broke down – to be at the Barrow game, which was the first one in the Football League and I thought we were gonna win! I can't remember exactly but I've got a feeling we were winning and it all caved in in the last 10 minutes. But it just took about a day and a night to get there and to get back. But I remember that – and I didn't really kind of appreciate the significance of it until years later – I think there were only about 200 Oxford people there and I went with my brother.”