Oxford United v Torquay United
Saturday, November 10th, 2012, 3pm
By Myles Munsey
Reason for going:
As a Torquay United fan of far too many years and living in Berkshire this is a relatively easy trip. Living as I do surrounded by Oxford fans this is the third time I've been invited to this particular fixture and I don't often get to see my team play away from home. OUFC v TUFC is becoming a regular event now as the wind-up potential is enormous (I'm outnumbered 5:1!).
Very kindly given a lift by my friend's daughter - four of us went - and it is any easy 45 minute run. The A34 from Newbury nearly takes you to the Kassam's front door!
Before the game:
As we arrived well on time I engaged in pleasant conversation with programme sellers, fans, and stewards in fact anyone who wants to talk football. With my trusty camera in the coat pocket I took the chance to photograph Ollie and Olivia the bull and cow Oxford mascots. Outside the stadium is a bronze bull statue which is a more accurate version if less amusing! (A few years back it got defaced by some idiots but looks resplendant now in full charging and snorting mode on its own personal plinth).
Buying a ticket for the away section is always easy and I was in my seat in the north stand for 2.40pm. One good thing about an away ticket is that whilst in theory it is for a designated seat, they let you sit anywhere.
Not exactly first impressions as I've been to the Kassam around six times so high time I did a review! Although modern it is less 'flat-pack' than a lot of its peers and enjoys a nice open aspect without that hemmed in feeling. No claustrophobia here. This elevates it in my estimation and the fact that one end is open (a West Stand never having been built), makes it unusual amongst British stadia. A lot of new builds have a statue of a former player outside as mentioned just now Oxford has chosen to have a statue of a bull at their stadium, not that they are without famous players of course!
Before the game started there was a minute's silence to remember the human sacrifice of two World Wars. This was impeccably observed.
I've seen five Torquay v Oxford encounters over the years and the previous four have been action-packed. This wasn't. The first half was insipid with goal action minimal. The second half was way better with Oxford upping the tempo and putting Torquay under pressure for long spells. Martin Rice in the Torquay goal who has played for Torquay (in the Blue Square Premier) before but was making his full league debut at the age of 26 played a blinder saving superbly from Leven and Constable.
The shot ratio of 17 to 4 in Oxford's favour tells it's own story. Torquay's defence wobbled, creaked, got lucky but at the death held firm. After two defeats, an away point ground out with considerable effort was most valuable in Martin Ling's opinion. Even more so with a goalkeeper debutant and without striker Rene Howe (suspended). The reaction of the home fans at the final whistle suggested that they were clearly not happy to have drawn a blank in this one.
There is normally a 5-10 minute wait to get out of the car park at the Kassam, but that besides it was an easy ride home and we were back at 'chez Newbury' for the local fireworks display at 7.30pm.
No fireworks on the pitch perhaps but a good day if you are a TUFC fan. A poor game certainly, but I always enjoy a trip to the Kassam. The stewards are some of the best around - chatty, engaging and knowledgeable about their club. And another thing. Being a tall bloke - I think I've mentioned this before - the leg room was very generous. Oxford get good gates and generate quite a bit of noise so there is never a feeling of sitting in an empty soulless concrete box.
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