A man runs on the pitch in his pants, followed by another, then one reinvades into the arms of Billy Turley. Goal. Pitch invasion. Northwich walk off. Sundry chaos. Concentration evaporates and then another goal, 1-2. Inevitably, a fight breaks out in the Oxford Mail stand, it’s between two women.
I had come to the conclusion that the Conference experience was a dream because dreams get more surreal as they reach their conclusion. Then you wake up, gather your thoughts and realise your mind has been playing tricks on you. On this premise, I’d started to believe that the three results we needed would go our way. Then play-offs, Wembley and hey presto, I’d wake up back in the League.
We’ve always been an oddity of a club, but this season, the weirdness just accelerated. The new manager nobody has ever heard of. The loss of our most dynamic player. The realization that said player is a numbskull racist. A five-point deduction. 1 defeat in 22. A game which overruns by 30 minutes followed by one that is delayed by an hour. 94th minute winners and an away win against the Champions elect on the night they were supposed to receive their crown. It couldn’t be real, it had to be a dream.
But instead it was a bucket of cold water. We looked tired; as we have done for a few weeks but for the first time the players were confronted with the true face of this club and its insanities. They looked devastated at the end, sitting and staring at the Oxford Mail stand wondering why it was, after all their effort and drama, that everyone else contrived to scupper their success. It’s a form of self harming.
As I walked back to my car, a bloke who looked like he was involved in organized crime asked me the result. He said ‘you’re joking?’ with incredulity when I told him and looked at me like it was my fault. I shrugged my shoulders and kept walking. It was easier than trying to explain.