Back in the 2003/4 season the Us were topping the league at Christmas with a remarkable record of having lost only one game. The visitors on a chilly Boxing Day were Leyton Orient. It was a big crowd, I was sat with friends in the front couple of rows of the North Stand having transferred my seat to be with them.
With the board being lifted to indicate time added on, Oxford did what they did, pumped the ball forward. It wasn’t the first time they’d done it that afternoon and I quietly despaired at the one-dimensional style. Then Julian Alsop got his head to the ball and as he landed instinctively set of on a foot race with a retreating Orient defender and strike partner Lee Steele. I, again, quietly despaired as Alsop pushed the more agile and crafted Steele out the way and got to the ball first knocking it into space. The lumbering beast not only neutralised his partners participation in the attack, he’d over hit his first touch. I quietly despaired as the keeper advanced and Alsop, falling, desperately tried to salvage the situation. The keeper and Alsop met around the same time. Suddenly the ball was beyond the oncoming keeper; but it was rising. I quietly despaired as it soared upwards… except it didn’t, it kept rising, but hit the back of the net. 2-1, top of the league.
Ricky Villa in the 1981 FA Cup Final it wasn’t but Matt Day’s winner against St Albans last night was like that, it was a series of improbable phases in which you thought the chance had passed only to see him appear with the ball at his feet in a further advanced position. Me must have block tackled and ricocheted his way passed four or five players before toe-poking his drive into the net.
We were the better side, and things were going against us, Hargreaves‘ sending off may have been justified, I couldn’t really see but Robinson and Johnson‘s first half injuries were just bad luck. St Albans came with a game plan to defend deep and break hard and fast. Which they did excellently, it wasn’t the style normally associated with a part-time team. On the way back I followed a couple of their fans back up the Grenoble Road. One took a phone call… ‘Hi, yeah, it’s finished, we lost but it was brilliant, we played so well’. Which pretty much summed it up.