Oxford - Kassam Stadium
1/1/11 Oxford United vs Southend United 0-2 Attendance:7,362
My first football match for six weeks, could you believe! What with Christmas and all the snow, plus four gigs and the postponement of Southend's game against Barnet on Boxing Day, I was quite excited at the thought of going to a football match once again. Although I have been to the Kassam Stadium twice before, if I want to join the 92 Club, I have to go again now that Oxford are back in the league, after a few seasons in the Conference.
I was originally going to drive up to Oxford and stop off at Wycombe Wanderers on the way to take some photos of Adams Park. But as I went there in December instead, it wasn't necessary and I could hopefully sleep on the coach, as like many people celebrating the New Year, I didn't get to bed until nearly 2.00 am.
I had to be up at nine, to catch Wino's Travel Zone coach at ten, leaving from the Elms in Leigh. In fact the dog woke me up barking at 8.30am, so I didn't need an alarm call after all! Mind you, going with my son Peter on the coach, meant that we had to drive to the Elms, rather than walk, as he was not ready on time - as usual! As I was waiting at the bus stop, I met some other regular away Southend fans who I hadn't seen for ages, who were going on the Supporter's Trust coach, which should have left ten minutes after us, but in fact left ten minutes before!
When the Travel Zone coach finally did arrive, (due to some latecomers), we caught up with the Trust coach in Basildon. Then we ended up following it all the way down the 127 and M25, until it stopped off at South Mimms services. We were on the M25 by 10.50 and had some great fun courtesy of Wino, giving out birthday presents left, right and centre to four different travellers who'd celebrated their birthdays over the past few weeks. They were all suitably embarrassed by his choice of gifts, not least the bloke who got a pair of "blow job underpants" with a hole suitably left out at the front!
Thankfully Wino didn't put a DVD on the player, so we were able to chat or sleep if we chose, as well as get lots of free biscuits, crisps and drinks (soft of course). So quick was the journey, due to lack of traffic on the M25 for a change, that we made an unscheduled stop at Oxford services for half an hour. Even then we arrived at the ground before one o'clock, only to find that the Trust coach had beaten us yet again! There were still piles of snow all over the car park, and they still haven't built a fourth stand, so you can see right inside the ground from the car park.
Whilst most people made their way to the nearest pub, The Priory, just across the car park, Peter and I made our way round the ground taking some photos. Considering it is quite a new ground, the Kassam is starting to look old and run down already. There was graffiti all along the back of the away stand and the home end looks so bland, with just a plain blue paint job and no windows or pictures like at some grounds. They have put in a statue of a raging bull in one of the car parks, but that didn't bring Oxford any luck today.
We then went over to The Priory pub, a very old pub, built of Cotswold stone, which has probably stood on the same site for hundreds of years, only to be swallowed up by the 21st century developments of football ground and fast food outlets. One thing they have done since I was last here is add a marquee to the pub, so there is plenty of room for both sets of fans to mingle freely and have a pint or two before the game.
Unfortunately they don't have any real ale, so I made do with pint of Courage Best, whilst Peter, shock horror, had a coke, having overdone it the night before! He watched the West Brom - Man U match on the tele, whilst I chatted to Warren, Wino and David in the pub. Once that match finished, people started to drift across to the ground. Peter and I made a visit to the club shop which is nowhere near the ground, but tucked in behind the shops. They only had Teddy mascots, but no Bull ones, so Wendy was unlucky today.
Once we got inside the ground, you could see there were not as many Southend fans as last time - as that was near the end of a promotion winning year - but at least 500 had made the journey. There was plenty of singing though, and it's still very weird to see a car park behind the goal. They played Shamn 69's, "If The Kids are United", followed by Thin Lizzy's, "The Boys Are back in Town", over the PA, before the teams came out.
Most Southend fans were saying a draw would be a good result, yet Southend seemed to be the dominant side from the start. So much so, that by half time we were 2-0 up! The first goal came from Barry Corr after Blair Sturrock's shot was blocked and Corr neatly placed the rebound into the net. Then just before half time, after which three Oxford players had been booked, Clohessy placed a long ball into the box from the far right. He must have over kicked it as it missed the heads of the Southend attackers and went over the fingers of the Oxford goalie and into the net.
In the second half, we thought it would be all Oxford, but they must have been on the booze the night before; as they failed to score and so Southend held onto their lead and get a second successive away win. Also, worthy of mention is Keane Ferdinand, the cousin of Rio and Anton, who played his first full team match in centre-midfield, One to watch for the future. Nice to hear, "Jingle Bells" at the end for once!
After the match, we walked straight onto the coach, which was surrounded by a line of stewards, keeping the two sets of fans apart, Not that there was any trouble of course. Possibly this was because last time we played at Oxford there was a big stand off after the game. The stewards had to keep the hooligan elements from both clubs apart, with no police used at this game. In the end the Oxford mob drifted off into the Blackbird Leys' estate and the coaches were allowed to go, but we could've left much earlier if there'd been police present.
Today, there were some police around and we left pretty pronto, with the traffic kept in the car park to let us through. We followed the Trust coach, but for some reason it turned right instead of left to Cowley, so we ended up going down a B road with lots of bends and narrow passing places, until we eventually got to the M40 and civilization again. The journey back was just as quick, with no stops or hold ups, plus a Southend United based quiz which Pete and I missed winning by one point! Back at the Elms, we got off the coach at 7.25, after a good away day for a change.
The bland home end plus a pile of snow The welcoming Prioy pub
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