Well, we a great day out, at least. It was something of an ill-advised idea, really, taking half a day off work and getting the train from Brighton to Oxford, whilst filling ourselves with gin, but it seemed to do the trick, and we ended up a hair’s breadth away from what would have been the greatest result in the meagre history of The Saints. First up, we met an Oxford supporter on the train, who was a thoroughly smashing chap and (more importantly, considering that we didn’t know where we were going or anything) took us to the pub, on the bus to the ground, and then met us again afterwards for more booze.
He will probably cherish the looks on our faces as we turned the corner of the road and saw the Kassam Stadium for the first time. Although only three-sided, it’s a quite lovely stadium (a bit like a slightly scaled down version of The New Den, for those of you that care about such things). No rotten wooden bench seats and crumbling concrete terraces for us last night. This was a proper football stadium. The couple of hundred or so that had made the trip from Hertfordshire were never going to fill the entire stand that we had been given, and we were, of course, utterly outsung by 6000 home fans, but as the match wore on, it became apparent that we were keeping them at bay, and even occasionally equalling them.
I missed the first Oxford goal, having elected to avail myself of the lavatory following one of their players getting a (slightly harsh) red card. The size of the cheer gave the game away as I chatted with a steward (I had finished pissing by this time, just to clarify things). To my considerable surprise, we didn’t utterly fold, and started pushing players forward. And then… well, there’s nothing quite like an utterly unexpected goal, is there? Dave Theobald was signed from Kettering Town during the summer, and has been an excellent signing. His header (which seemed to go through the legs of the Oxford goalkeeper Billy Turley) caused disbelieving celebrations and even that most grandmotherly of celebrations, a conga. We spoke, of course, too soon. Thirty seconds later, Oxford scored again, and it was game over this time. As the part-time Saints (many of the players had gone to the ground straight from work) wilted, Oxford finished strongly, hit the crossbar, and looked considerably more likely to extend their lead than lose it.
Given the apocalyptic premonitions I had before the match, this was something to be proud of. The team played their hearts out, and (although the Oxford supporters probably couldn’t hear us), we sang our hearts out. It was something of a pity that I woke up this morning to find out that a brick had been thrown at the supporters’ coach on the way out of the ground. Apparently, as Oxford’s new ground is on the edge of the somewhat infamous Blackbird Leys estate, this sort of thing isn’t entirely uncommon, and I’m happy to believe that it was nothing to do with anyone connected with OUFC. Reading the Oxford messageboard this morning, they were gracious and fulsome in their praise for our team and, indeed, us. I hope that we will continue to impress people on and off the pitch for the remainder of the season.
I’m off out on the lash again now, by the way. Criminally hungover thoughts on England-Andorra to follow tomorrow.