There is very little to say about this game. Throughout, it was eminently watchable, lots of endeavour, some hard fought challenges, some decent (long) balls but, bar a long range effort that hit the foot of the post (I missed), a missed sitter from Lee Steele and a last-minute disallowed Redbridge goal, there was little of genuine note to the game.
But it was the first time since the 80s I had been to a game with my dad. He is now a senior, a fact that the generous/cheeky young turnstile lady noticed even though he didn’t. “Half price!?” Grrrrr. With Dan and Nick also present, this was a restrained and alc-lite Real FA Cup afternoon out on a warm and dry then cold and misty afternoon in the Essex borders.
After a beer, a quick ‘hello’ and ‘good luck’ to Thursday’s interviewee, Motormen boss Terry Spillane, and a well observed minute’s silence through the lens of a Canon 450D, the game was underway to some hoopla and joie de vivre from the travelling support. In the opening 20-30 minutes it was all about City’s Darren Pond pulling strings. He was left to wander and got a lot of City’s moves going.
Throughout that period and indeed the game, Redbridge defended stoutly and tried to hit Ryan Murray with the aerial ball. More often than not he won whatever was thrown at him but his co-striker was never going the right way, nor close enough for the flick on, nor was Gardner able to find space in which to look for a pass. Essentially, Redbridge were well-prepared for what Oxford City had to throw at them but you wonder if Round 2 is a bridge too far for the Motormen. Hope not, they remain the lowest ranked team in the tournament.
After about 40 minutes Declan Benjamin let a shot go for City from about 35yards, the keeper lost it and it hit the foot of the post. I am told. I was in the toilet at this point. 0-0 At half time and for all Oxford’s possession (must have been 65%+) they didn’t look much like breaching the Redbridge wall. Lee Steele replaced the ineffectual Basham on the hour and immediately blazed a shot wide.
Ten minutes or so later and Steele found himself in the best position of the match but tamely lobbed the ball into Rafis’ arms from about six yards. Should have buried it. At this point eyebrow’s started to raise, Oxford City were starting to look like they couldn’t score and wouldn’t score. The seasoned cup watchers around started to ponder the not uncommon outcome of a mugging, a late underdog goal against the run of play.
Sure enough, with the game well in to, if not past, the three added minutes, Redbridge swung in the last of their two corners, the ball wasn’t cleared and was headed through a crowd of players into the net. The ref blew and wheeled away to the centre spot but all but one of the crowd saw the linesman’s flag up. The goalkeeper may well have been baulked and Redbridge didn’t deserve to win but how we would have celebrated had that goal stood.
We may well have gone as mental as the ‘BBC Essex’ commentator sitting behind us, ‘commentating’ to himself throughout the game. His pitch shifted up through the octaves as the game went on and by the time he’d realised, about ten seconds after everyone else, that the goal wouldn’t stand, pretty much the only thing capable of hearing his shrieks were dogs.
Mr Radio Essex was fairly quiet in the first half and only occasionally could you hear his mumblings. But, once the second half was nearing it’s conclusion, it became clear that this was not BBC Essex’s finest. Indeed, a Tweet by Mark Segal from a Redbridge game four weeks previously started filtering back into my consciousness. He’d clearly witnessed the same guy and Radio Essex big wig Glenn Speller assured him they were not covering that game. BBC Essex’s Matt Barker provided the same assurance this week.
The game restarted and the final whistle went. 0-0, not a bad game but oddly bereft of incident except in the final minute. The away bench were disappointingly pragmatic and destructive, which may be why they couldn’t break down a dogged side. Had they looked for space and positivity, maybe they would have had more joy. As it was, it was all ‘get tight’, ‘pin him’ or ‘get in to them’, which was odd as they were clearly the better side.
Whether the 465 attending here will, in ten days time, be heading back up the mysterious motorway Mr Radio Essex reckoned lies between Redbridge and Oxford, we have no idea. Whoever does will see a tie decided, the victors visiting last year’s alleged non league FA Cup story, Crawley Town.