Wednesday 5th September 2012 ko 7.45pm
Football League Trophy 1st Round
OXFORD UNITED 1 (Potter 88)
swindon town 0
Att 7,746 (1311 away)
There’s a fairly well established routine for Oxford United’s involvement for this competition. Prices are reduced to a uniform £10, and the North Stand isn’t opened for home fans. The programme is smaller, and a weakened side put out. There is of course of exception to any rule of Oxford United, and that is swindon town, so none of the above happened!
If you don’t understand the rivalry, then please have a read of https://laurencereade.wordpress.com/2012/03/03/all-quiet-on-the-western-front/ I think you’ll get the picture. I’d also point out that with the way the draw is regionalised, and that the competition is only for the bottom two divisions of the league, another A420 derby was perhaps more likely than you’d expect!
Last season both sides got something out of the rivalry. Oxford completed a double over the Robins, including a first win at the County Ground since 1973. swindon took the championship, and did so in some style. To add a certain piquancy to the tie, if any were needed, swindon were yet to score at the Kassam stadium, the FA Cup fixture in 2002 finishing 1-0 and last season’s league fixture 2-0. You felt that a side having strengthened in the summer further, would put to bed at least one of those statistics.
There was also the Paolo Di Canio factor to consider. There’s no arguing with a championship in your first season, but there’s always the propensity for the exitable Italian to explode. Already this season Captain Paul Caddis has been shipped out on loan following a bust-up with the manager, then another bust-up this time with goalkeeper Wes Foderingham, was papered over. I noted that the swindon fans seemed wholly behind their keeper, so perhaps they felt their manager calling their player “The worst professional I have ever worked with,” was a little wide of the mark. You just wonder what could happen next with Di Canio, it certainly isn’t dull at the other end of the A420!
It was a frantic affair as all local derbies should be. Smoke bombs were thrown, insults hurled, and there was an atmosphere I’ve never encountered at a FL Trophy game. Oxford with a midfield injury crisis gave a debut to Arsenal loanee Daniel Boateng in holding midfield role. He showed what a great prospect he’s considered to be, at centre half. swindon made by far the better start and missed a hatful of chances, the most glaring being Darren Ward’s free header from Adam Rooney’s free kick from the right. Adam Chapman’s dipping free kick after 40 minutes represented the U’s best chance of the half.
What turned the game was the introduction of Alfie Potter (for Boateng) on 53 minutes, his desire to run at defenders and a devastating turn of pace gave the Robins defence something different to worry about. Di Canio’s reaction was to sacrifice midfielder Giles Coke in favour of centre half Aden Flint. It cost his side the game, as Flint collided with Ward allowing James Constable space in the left channel. He looked up and his measured pass found Potter making a late run into the box, and he made no mistake slotting home under Foderingham.
That took the fight out of the visitors, as Oxford found it straightforward to play out time, for a victory that will be hard to put into context. Both sets of fans will either enjoy the win, or mourn the loss depending on their allegiance, but despite Di Canio’s pre-match comments about targeting this trophy the relevance of this result to both sides will be how they perform in the following weeks.