Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Sherbet Dib-Dag

Tuesday, 13th September 2011
nPower League Two
Dagenham & Redbridge 0 OUFC 1

Well, a lot happens in two weeks, doesn't it? I've been away from football duties for the past few weeks - neglecting them, some would say. Didn't go to Crewe: Had a wedding to go to. Didn't go to the Burton game: Had house-hunting to do. Whether these excuses are valid ones or not is irrelevant, by the way.

What I'm trying to say is, two weeks ago we were all laughing at Coco di Canio making Swindon a laughing stock, whilst we thanked the stars for our saviour Lord Wilder. Two weeks later and Swindon have offloaded their problem player, won a couple of games, gone above Oxford and they seem to be, sadly, clicking into gear in League Two.

But at the nicer end of the A420, Oxford's form has been mixed at worst, and a bizarre 'Wilder Out' campaign has been started on Facebook and online forums by some seriously retarded coounts who clearly have an agenda with our manager for some reason. I will admit things have not been helped by a subsequently alleged incident where Wilder apparently told a pensioner to fuck off.

But the vitriolic, nasty and personal bile being bandied about by some idiots towards Wilder still seems totally out of context and frankly bizarre only 1 month into the season. Plus, who hasn't told the odd pensioner to fuck off now and then? I know I have, the malingering shits.

So, for no real reason, last night's game at Dagenham seemed to take on a bit more importance than perhaps a trip to a de facto non-league side should have done. Anything less than 3 points and the hound-dogs would be out moaning about this selection, that formation, this change, that decision, and on and on.

Lucky then, and one in the eye for the haters and their bizarre anti-Wilder campaign, we did win. And probably by the most convincing 1 goal margin I've ever witnessed. The only criticism I would lay from last night is the same as usual - we should have finished the game off 6 times over rather than leave us fans having to suffer with constant fright for the last 20mins. Finishing. That old chestnut.

This was an easy one for me of course, being a London resident. It was a quick change at Stratford International and the chance to walk through the new Westfield shopping centre on it's first day of opening, to get to the tube station onto Dagenham.

Westfield Stratford City: Busy.

Boy it was big, that Westfield. And busy. Packed to the rafters in fact, with 10's of Thousands of dazzled and awestruck local youths screaming "OMG! Dey got a massif JD Sports!" and running off to buy a new reebok hoodie to cruise the streets in.

The wittering of all these thousands of eager consumers was bouncing off the shiny faux-marble walls and infiltrating the peace inside my head. It was like a very well-lit, well-stocked hell on earth.

Arriving in Dagenham and...well, at least it felt real after Stratford City. I mean, VERY real. 'Gritty' you might say, to be kind. 'Fucking awful shithole', you might say, were you not being so kind.

That said, it is a friendly place, Dagenham. There is no bad atmosphere, no trouble, no hint of intimidation anywhere. It's just run-down and a bit depressing, in truth. But the people seem good sorts, so I should stop being so rude about their home.
Dagenham: No Ball Games Permitted. Oh...
I had a pre-match Doner Kebab from the Eastbrook Cafe, about 5 mins from the ground. It was highly edible, and it was a nice little cafe, but their business card was a little misleading. I didn't spot many snow-capped mountains or tranquil lakes around Dagenham. Perhaps they were a few streets down.
Dagenham: Majestic Mountains (So who needs ball games?)
One thing I really liked on our last two visits to Daggers was a pint in their excellent social club. It's a great place, although you do have to sign-in and pay £1 to take advantage of the cheap beer inside. I signed in as 'Fantastic Mr Ox'.

"You have to sign in with your real name" said the man on the door.
"How do you know that's not my real name though?" I replied, cheekily.
"Fair point. £1 please."
Cheerleaders at a non-league ground. Whatever next!
The ground has changed quite a lot since our last visit in 2006. Well, it hasn't at three ends, but the stand they put us in was a nice sparkly new one, to replace the crumbling old 3-deep uncovered terrace of yesteryear. I'm a strange fellow but I think I'd rather have been on the old terrace, to be honest. Also not really sure why they put us in there rather than use it for their own fans.
Action at the over-zealously named
'London Borough of Barking & Dagenham Stadium'.

So, the game itself, and as I said above it was pretty one-sided, especially in the 2nd half when Leven got his foot on the ball a bit more often, Potter was all over the place and the new lad Robert Hall had a fantastic debut. Plaudits all round.

But it might have been a different story had Dagenham posed any real threat upfront - we could easily have been punished for our inability to put the many very good chances away.

Heroes salute the travelling fans. Well played boys.

Ho-hum though - we won, and our 100% record at Dagenham still intact, which is also nice. What was furtherly (yes that is a word actually) nice was a short 30 minute tube ride home.

Amazingly in 3 years living in the capital, this is only the 2nd London game for Oxford I've been able to go to due to holidays, business trips and other lame excuses yet again. Now I've got two in a week. What are the chances?

Bring on the Buzzy-Bees!

Up The U's!

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Brewing Some Memories

An article by Fantastic Mr Ox which first appeared in the Burton Albion Programme 10.09.11


I have fond memories of visiting Burton Albion. Some of the fondest of the otherwise rather less-than-fond years of 2006-2010 in non-league.
Burton's Pirelli Stadium: Tiresome.
Burton was of course our second ever away game in that first season in the Conference; and I recall that first visit to the Pirelli in August 2006 was a bit of a cracker, too.

From going behind to the annoyingly ‘prolific-against-Oxford’ Daryl Clare in the first half, then surviving three Burton efforts against the woodwork, Oxford went on to win it with two goals from the mercurial Robert Duffy in the last 15 minutes. Cue some delirious scenes on the concrete terrace that Oxford fans were in.

The win continued The U’s excellent start to the campaign with the third win of the first week. After the sheer misery of relegation from the football league just 3 months before, it felt like a good time to be an Oxford fan again, bouncing around in Burton.

I remember in those early months that season we genuinely seemed unbeatable. We weren’t of course, and despite carrying that unbeaten run into November, at times you could have sensed we were papering over cracks and getting lucky, if you allowed yourself to sense it, that is. But most of us didn’t, did we? Instead got carried away with it and thought we’d have the title wrapped up by Christmas.

Oh how naïve.

By the time Burton made their visit to The Kassam in March the following year, the wheels had well and truly fell off the Belief Bus and a snore-draw 0-0 was an apt pointer to how our season had fizzled out into mediocrity after such an early charge at the title.

We were back at The Pirelli again in August, this time in the new season, our second in the Conference and the one we knew we’d be going up in this time, having learnt the failures of our first season. We were certainly well on our way with another repeat 2-1 victory at Burton. By this our second visit we knew our way around a bit – and by that I mean we had our designated pre-match boozer settled upon - The Beech Inn, just a 5 min walk down the road from the ground past the big booze factory itself.

What a lovely place to go for an away day it was becoming!

The same can’t be said to when we welcomed Burton to Oxford however, where it ranged from goalless snoozefests such as previously mentioned or a 3-0 tonking at their hands the following year.

Our last meeting in non-league was another fond memory though, where a point for Burton in April 2009 would have sealed the title for The Brewers in front of the Setanta cameras at The Pirelli. Although Schadenfreude is not always a pleasant thing, it was really rather a lot of fun to deny Burton their promotion party on the night courtesy of a Chapman free kick, and another fond memory of visiting Burton was added to the list.

Chappers celebrates his free kick winner.
Sorry about that, Aaron.

We only postponed Burton’s party of course as they were crowned champions a few games later. So they shouldn’t hold a grudge.

It was nice to be renewing acquaintances with The Brewers last season after these grand memories of visiting their place in our non-league stint. Long may they continue in the Football League, I say.

Up The U’s!