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Tuesday 6th October 2015 ko 19.45

Football League Trophy Southern Section, 2nd Round

OXFORD UNITED 2 (Roofe 41 54)

swindon town 0 Turnbull sent off (violent conduct) 31

Att 9,013 (1,179 away)

Entry £15

Programme £3

It was 6.30 and there I was stood sheltering under the canopy over turnstile 1 waiting for Alan to open up. I watched the other Oxford fans waiting alongside me, and we all had the same expression on our faces. We were nervous, and despite there being 50 or so stood there it was quiet, I could even hear Joey Beauchamp’s footsteps as he walked over to the Quad Bar hospitality entrance. Being an Oxford United legend affords you that luxury.

Of course few if anyone really cares about the JPT, the Paint Pot, the Johnstone’s Paints Trophy, or the Football League Trophy if you’d prefer the unsponsored name, and I’m old enough to remember the derision thrown at Birmingham City fans when they celebrated winning the thing. Mind you we did end up signing their goal scorer!

But games against swindon MATTER, here’s a 44-year-old professional who still can’t bear to put their name in capitals. Derby days are important, no matter what competition they’re in, even the meeting between the two sides in the FA Youth Cup drew a crowd of 727!

Sadly there was trouble between swindon fans and the police at the railway station. There were 3 arrests and the police prevented the group from making their way to the stadium. Cue the comments to the Oxford Mail suggesting that rugby union fans are better behaved, but whilst not condoning the actions of a few idiots, let’s refer those comments to my third paragraph.

The difference between football and rugby union in Oxford is that football matters. It’s visceral, and it’s completely connected by a sense of place, “Your town, my city,” and if you think that works for rugby union here, then I suggest you look at London Welsh’s unhappy sojourn at Grenoble Road.

It’s why 9,000 plus people are attracted to a competition that we don’t care about, and why both managers felt it necessary to name the strongest sides they could. On the Oxford side of things that meant a debut for Lichtensteiner goalkeeper Benji Büchel; has an umlaut ever been used in anger on an Oxford United teamsheet?

On the face of it this looked an interesting match-up, Oxford United doing well in League 2 with the Wiltshire club struggling at the wrong end of League 1. It proved to be anything but as United won the game precisely as manager Michael Appleton wanted, with a clean sheet, no penalties, no injuries and no cards.

In contrast swindon looked in trouble. They failed to muster even one shot on target and their cause was made impossible by Jordan Turnbull’s dismissal for kicking out at United captain Jake Wright. His manager has every reason to feel incredibly let-down by his player as he’ll now be without him for 3 games, and there is no cover as it stands. Oxford tore them apart after that, and to add injury to insult saw Bradley Barry carried off with what turned out to be a nasty case of concusssion. I was pleased that the Oxford fans gave him a sympathetic round of applause; some things are above local rivalries.

In the final analysis a League 2 side beat a poor League 1 side, and the result will be greatly enjoyed at the eastern end of the A420 and winced at at the other. As for the two clubs I suspect the machinations will be more keenly felt by swindon at club level. Oxford know their aims for the season, but for swindon the outlook looks uncertain. Shorn of 80% of their play-offs making team last season, they are a team in transition, and whilst I’m sure they won’t want to hear this from an Oxford United fan here’s my conclusion.

I’ve seen that look about a League 1 team before, the lack of confidence, the “not quite good enough” players on loan, and the general lack of confidence. I know it because that was the look of Oxford United on our last 2 relegations, once from League 1 and once from League 2. swindon have that look about them, and from my biased perspective, whilst every Oxford United fan would enjoy the schadenfreude of swapping places with them there is a bigger picture here.

Much as we’d hate to admit it the two clubs are all the better for when they meet. Leaving aside the big crowds and the games, it’s the anticipation we love and after it’s all over the bragging rights at work and in the pub. Yes, we love to sing about how much we hate each other, but we’re all the better for our meeting. Subject of course to Oxford United winning every time!!

 

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