Originally I wasn’t going to blog this match, seeing as though I have already written about Accrington Stanley in the past. However, due to how good the match was, I’ve decided to write about the day so I can always remember it… Plus it gets me out of doing my homework for another couple of hours.
In the days leading up to the match, various matches had been postponed due to waterlogged and frozen pitches. The pitch at The Crown Ground hasn’t always been famed for its inability to cope in harsh weather, so it was a brave decision by us to travel to Accrington.
“Tony, what happens if it’s called off? Do we have a plan B?”
“No. I hadn’t thought that far”
I caught the 12:19 train from Bolton to Blackburn, where Tony and Johnny were waiting for me. Luckily they hadn’t decorated the carriage for me this time (like on our last outing to AFC Fylde). We munched our way through some sausage rolls, and in no time at all we arrived in Blackburn. It was then that I realised I had made a huge mistake. I was stood at Blackburn Train Station… in my Bolton Wanderers gear. I had Johnny to protect me anyway, and after he fended off a few locals, we boarded the train to Accrington.
We arrived in Accrington, along with a handful of travelling Oxford United fans. None of us really had a clue where to go, so we just walked down the hill found directly off the platform… it seemed like a good starting point. Now, if you are trying to cross roads in Accrington town centre, I suggest you wear a fluorescent vest! It was a nightmare. The taxi drivers were intent on turning one of us into roadkill. Johnny had the most near misses… Although, in all fairness, it was his own fault for presuming cars stop when you walk in front of them!
On our walk we passed a Christmas Fair at a Church. We were tempted to go in and ask for some cakes for the journey, but we soon saw the floodlights. It was a footballing version of the Nativity. Who needs to follow a star when you can follow a floodlight? Christmas had hit the Lancashire town of Accrington, and that was confirmed when we saw a Christmas Tree shop. I won’t lie, I got a little bit giddy and considered buying one.
It was 13:40, time for a pint in The Crown (Pub) which is found just behind the ground on the main road. Nothing to report really. West Ham v Chelsea was on the TV… and many Oxford fans had taken shelter in there as they obviously couldn’t cope with the harsh Northern weather.
After a quick pint it was time to ice-skate down to the ground. We narrowly avoiding being run over AGAIN, before I bought a matchday programme for £3, and it was a great publication. Far better than the programmes from their first season in the Football League.
Tony and Johnny walked off in search of their complementary tickets from Accrington Stanley, and I went to the club shop in search of a shirt. The two blokes who run the club shop were really nice and helpful… and despite working in a portacabin in the middle of winter, they still managed to smile more than the miserable workforce at The Reebok.
I was in the middle of putting my Accrington Stanley shirt on, when some sort of animal approached me. On closer inspection it was the Stanley mascot – Winstanley.
“Are you a dog?”
“Is that your best chat up line?”
Photos taken, time to get into the ground. It was only £5 for me to watch the match with my student card. Whilst I squeezed through the turnstiles, Tony and Johnny got let in through a back entrance, oh how it is to be world famous bloggers!
We were sat in the Main Stand, which I sat in on my first visit to The Crown Ground back in 2009. The Main Stand is split into two sections; The John Smiths Stand and the Main Stand. The two are separated by the dugouts which are found in the middle. The Main Stand section of the Main Stand was built to replace a terrace when the club was still in the Northern Premier League. The John Smiths section of the Main Stand is a bit older, and houses media facilities.
To the right was the Coppice End, which is where the away fans can watch the match. Exposed to the elements (as I found out at Accrington v Dagenham last season) it had an extension in 2011 to house the increased numbers of away fans which visit The Crown Ground.
To the left was The Sophia Khan Stand. This is where the vocal Accrington fans congregate and make a great atmosphere. A roof was added to the stand in 2007, and seats were also added at the front to bring the ground up to Football League standards.
Opposite was the Whinney Hill Terrace. A roof was also added to this terrace when the club gained promotion into The Football League. Only three rows deep, the rain drives into this stand, so there is not much need for a roof as it doesn’t really help the situation. The away fans are also given half of this stand, which means they do have a seated option if needed.
The teams were lead out by Accrington Stanley captain, Luke Joyce. Luke went to my Primary School and Secondary School, which meant we all knew of him growing up. Our old headteacher at Primary School (Mr. Brierley) always used to go on about how “Luke Joyce still has one of our school kits! If I’d have known, I’d have phoned his parents straight away! They cost a lot! If I catch any of you lot taking a kit home, there will be trouble!”. Unfortunately I never did manage to keep a primary school football kit… and I blame Luke Joyce for that.
When Luke made his debut for Wigan Athletic, our headteacher asked me to make him a card on behalf of the school (as I was the only lad who could draw). So yeah, Luke… If you’re reading… the card you received from St. Richards, I drew that. Impressed? I know you are.
Also on show for Accrington was former England international, James Beattie. The last time I saw Beattie play was in a Euro 2004 qualifier at Old Trafford. We beat Liechtenstein 2-0, with Beattie playing alongside Beckham, Owen, Rooney, Gerrard and Lampard to name a few.
The Oxford United players were wearing black armbands, after receiving the news that former player Mitchell Cole had passed away just hours before the match at the age of 27. Many Oxford fans only found out about the tragic news when they got to the ground, so the atmosphere was a bit subdued in the away end.
Playing in their change kit of sky blue, United were attacking The Sophia Khan Stand in the first half. United could have pulled ahead after just one minute when Sean Rigg beat Toto Nsiala for pace down the left wing. He then crossed into the area, where James Constable fired towards goal. His shot was saved by Paul Rachubka who had just signed on emergency loan from Leeds United. The Accrington fans behind the goal were all singing “We all hate Leeds scum” which I thought was a bit daft!
Toto Nsiala was having a nightmare, which resulted in Accrington fans repeatedly shouting “Oh no Toto!” *Or nor tor-tor* – a line which played a starring role in our Year 6 production of The Wizard of Oz. It sounded horrific.
On 8 minutes Accrington striker Padraig Amond cut through the Oxford defence. He rounded Ryan Clarke, but was forced wide by the onrushing keeper. The Irishman chipped the ball over the keeper, but Michael Raynes was on hand to head the ball off the line.
Accrington had shot after shot on the Oxford goal, and somehow didn’t take the lead. Pete Murphy had a strong header saved by Clarke, before Benin international Rommy Boco hit the crossbar just seconds later.
Jon-Paul Pittman then put the visitors ahead on 12 minutes. Tony Capaldi set Pittman off down the left hand wing, and he took the ball past Nsiala far too easily. Pittman then skipped inside the penalty area, beat another defender, beat the keeper, and smashed the ball into the goal from close range. 1-0 to Oxford.
Accrington equalised on 25 minutes when Craig Lindfield scored his first goal of the season. Rommy Boko crossed the ball in from the left, and Padraig Amond scuffed his shot. James Beattie tried his luck, but it was Lindfield who was on hand to capitalise on the loose ball, and he fired the ball past Ryan Clarke from close range.
Just before the half time whistle went, Oxfords best player up until that point was stretchered off. Jon-Paul Pittman had been a real threat down the left for the visitors, but his afternoon was cut short when he went down holding his right shoulder.
It had been a well contested and entertaining first half… but far more was to come in the second.
Before the second half though, it was time for a pie. Off we ventured, behind the stand to a burger van. Many of the products were on the expensive side, and I personally refuse to pay £3 for a cheeseburger. Tony advised that I shouldn’t negotiate on prices, as they weren’t likely to make an exception for a young lad with a camera. I don’t know about you, but I think it’s daylight robbery. Instead, I paid £2 for a Meat and Potato Pie.
Meat and Potato was the only flavour on offer today at The Crown Ground. We asked the women serving what make the pies were, and our suspicions were confirmed. It was a Clayton Park Pie. The last time I purchased one of these it turned into a bit of a nightmare. I won’t go into detail, but lets just say it was burnt and I got a full refund down at Salford City Reds. Nothing to complain about this time, as the pie was brilliant.
Whilst at the burger van, we noticed a young blonde girl walk off with a pizza delivery style box. You know, those red ones that your local takeaway use? It all seemed a bit odd. Surely Accrington Stanley hadn’t gone all “American Baseball Style” on us had they? Yes, yes they had. Although, I’m sure nobody in the ground was complaining…
Half time pie eaten. Time for me to take some more photos for my A-Level photography. I had e-mailed the club in the week leading up to the match, but after they had ignored me, I went ahead taking photos anyway being the rebel I am. I was taking photos of the dugouts when I got talking to the stewards, when suddenly they invited me on to the touch-line to take photos. Brilliant! Thank you very much! I’m sure Viv will love the close up shot of a seat with a yellow boot on it. I know.
*Quick update! The club later e-mailed me apologising, after reading my blog. Just shows what a cracking little club it is!*
The second half kicked off, and the first action was halted when another Oxford United player went down with a serious injury. Andrew Whing had to be stretchered off, which meant that the visiting side had already used all of the substitutions.
Oxford were the better team for the second half, and played some great attacking football in front of the visiting supporters. James Constable was a constant threat, and you sensed it wouldn’t be long before they scored.
The game became very stretched, and on 80 minutes the true magic of The FA Cup was clear for all to see.
Oxford’s Damian Batt headed the ball away, but it fell to James Beattie who was around 30 yards from goal. He volleyed, slicing through the ball to keep it low. It flew straight over Ryan Clarke, into the top right hand corner. Definitely the best goal I have seen for a long while, and one which at the time, was fitting to win an FA Cup match.
85 minutes, and Oxford equalised. Alfie Potter cut inside, and set up James Constable to pass the ball into the bottom right hand corner. Surely the match would go to a replay? There’s not going to be another goal? Wrong.
90 minutes, Lee Molyneux curled his free kick into the left hand corner from the edge of the box. Surely Accrington have won the match, and progressed into the FA Cup 3rd Round? Wrong.
94 minutes, Oxford went extremely close to equalising twice in a matter of seconds. The last move of the match saw Peter Leven send in a floated cross to the back post. Up rose Michael Raynes who headed back across goal, to score an equaliser. The Oxford fans were running everywhere. That is what The FA Cup is all about. Unbelievable Jeff.
The ground emptied, and we left The Crown Ground. Our train back to Blackburn wasn’t for another hour, so we decided to have a pint in The Oaklea Tavern. It was so incredibly warm, it was brilliant. I could have hibernated in there for winter. Unfortunately we soon had to head home, and that was the end of our FA Cup Second Round day for another year.
The winner of Accrington v Oxford in the replay will host Sheffield United at home, a big incentive for both sides.
You’ll be able to have a read of Tony and Johnny’s more entertaining write up of the day here – http://www.1legonthecup.com/
- DISTANCE TRAVELLED TO GROUND: 23.2 miles
- ADMISSION: £5 as a student
- PROGRAMME PRICE: £3
- PIE: £2