The Thames Valley Derby was our match of choice this weekend as we headed to Oxford United v Reading at the Kassam Stadium as we continue to visit some of the 92 clubs in England.
Oxford United Football Club History
Oxford United have experienced fluctuating fortunes in terms of league status throughout the years. They have been promoted and relegated between the Football League divisions multiple times in their history, been relegated into non-league and they now reside in League One since their promotion back here in 2017.
I was brought up in a time when Oxford United featured in the Panini Album – either as a double page spread as a Division 1 club or as a team photo in Division 2. Players such as John Aldridge, Dean Saunders and Nigel Jemson being household names, so to see them in the 3rd tier means I always label them as a bit of a fallen giant.
Oxford United Form
The Thames Valley Derby was renewed for the first time in 20 years back in December when the clubs met at The Select Car Leasing Stadium, Reading playing out a 1-1 draw.
Ahead of this trip to Oxford United, we can see that the current 6th place position in League One is the best position the club has been in for many years, certainly when looking at the final places at the end of each season.
The current play-off position could have been even stronger, however the recent run of results include two defeats and one draw in the last three matches – these on the back of FA Cup and EFL Trophy defeats to Coventry and Wimbledon in a matter of 4 days.
Today’s opponents were Reading in 21st position at the start of the day, but with a win versus high-flying Derby and a draw against mid-table Leyton Orient under the belts in their last two matches, perhaps this would be tougher match than first thought.
Oxford United fans at the stadium in Yellow/Blue
The Kassam Stadium
This Thames Valley Derby would be played at the home of Oxford United, The Kassam Stadium, which is where the club have been since 2001. It’s an all seater stadium holding 12,500 and named after the ground owner and former Chairman. However, the club are due to leave the Kassam Stadium when the lease expires in 2026 so another visit to Oxford will be required in the near future!
Approaching the Kassam Stadium
Outside the Kassam Stadium
Two stands meet at the Kassam
Our ticket was in the South Stand Lower and was obtained a couple of weeks before the match. Due to the local rivalry you needed a membership which had been used previously. We are not quite sure of the final attendance at the time of typing, but there were limited tickets remaining 24 hours before kick-off.
The corner of the ground where we sat was open, as only three sides of the stadium have a stand. The club have positioned a large scoreboard in that end at a lower than normal height in an attempt to fill the gap!
The scoreboard at one end
Due to the lack of a stand, it allowed some fans without tickets to stand outside and observe the game including climbing up a tree for the best view!
Free view of the match for some
Ollie The Ox is the club mascot and he was outside the stadium having photo’s done with as many adults as children, including the mass of police officers who had been drafted in for this high risk match.
Ollie the Ox with the local police
Compared to other stadiums we have visited recently, there were far fewer food options, both outside the ground and inside. We had a nice cheeseburger outside the ground and a Bovril inside.
Oxford United v Reading
The match was played following the closure of the transfer window with the U’s completing deals for Jay Matete on loan from Sunderland and Owen Dale from Blackpool – however, neither player would start the match.
The starting line ups
In the pre-match build-up, Des Buckingham, the Oxford United Head Coach paid tribute to the large number of passionate fans and how the club are hoping to put on a good show for them. They were certainly in good voice – as were the Reading fans who filled the away end opposite where we were sat.
The home fans had to wait until the 33rd minute to celebrate a goal with Mark Harris hooking the ball home from close range following great work from Cameron Harris who clipped it across. Below, the players celebrate the goal and the score would remain 1-0 at Half Time.
The second half saw Owen Dale appear after 69 minutes to make his home debut and ten minutes into his appearance, Reading equalised. Jay Matete made his entrance in the 89th minute however there would be no fairy-tale as the game ended 1-1.
The result see’s Oxford United slip to 7th in League One, leapfrogged by Stevenage, which is one place outside the play-off positions. Can Oxford remain in the race for the top 6? They do have a five point cushion over Blackpool in 8th, with Leyton Orient next 9 points adrift so it’s partly in their own hands. The club is certainly moving in the right direction and it will be interesting to see how the new signings settle in.
Who Are We?
Covert Football Tripsoffer Mystery Football Weekends to Europe and currently these are available to book with just a £10 per person deposit. Our trips are ATOL Protected and include flights, accommodation and match tickets!
Mystery Football Weekends are great for group events such as birthdays or stag weekends so why not suggest it to your friends – just agree a weekend you want to travel and let us do the rest!