Where do I even start with this? In all my years of watching United this match ranks as one of the most ridiculous I’ve ever attended. And given that this is Newcastle United, you all know that’s a fairly bold claim to make.
The attempt to get to Oxford from London in truth gave us an early indication that the night was going to pan out into something outside the norm. I arranged to meet my fellow match attendee Sean outside a Marks and Spencer’s in London Marylebone station. He messaged me asking if the M&S had closed down and it then became apparent that he’d accidentally gone to London Paddington. This realisation came five minutes before the train was due to depart so Sean had to fork out for a new train ticket. I then got to the ticket barrier and wondered why I couldn’t download my ticket. It turns out I’d bought a ticket for travel on Thursday instead of Tuesday. The new ticket lightened me of thirty quid.
We got to Oxford at roughly the same time and had a few hours before the match to get a couple of drinks in a lovely boozer called the Oxford Retreat. Oxford is a fine-looking city no doubt and its lovely architecture doesn’t prepare you for just how bizarre the football stadium is. It’s located on a motorway flanked by buildings that make it feel as if you’re in a scene from a shit English version of Bladerunner. The three stands and then GIGANTIC car park behind one of the goals add a touch of Subutteo to the dystopia of the surrounding area. A truly unique experience, it felt like I was in two different stadiums at once.
Alan Shearer walked behind the goal pre-match and got a raucous sing-song from the Newcastle fans. He loved it and songs in his name were sung throughout the match. I hope you heard it on the telly.
The match itself was a reflection of our surroundings, relatively stable and controlled for three quarters with the remaining quarter a gaping monstrosity. Newcastle controlled it until the last ten minutes. The first two goals from Longstaff senior, an exceptional strike after good hold-up play by Joelinton, followed by a well-taken strike from the Brazilian goal-machine after a lovely long through ball by Bentaleb, had Bruce’s Boys in complete control. Oxford almost pulled one back but were denied by an excellent Darlow save followed immediately by an outstanding headed clearance off the line by Lascelles. However, Newcastle really ought to have gone in three up at the break with Miggy spurring a great chance by not taking it on his right foot.
Two nil up away at a League One side with only forty-five minutes remaining should be enough, right? Not a chance. Oxford brought on Liam Kelly who they signed on-loan only a few days earlier from Feyenoord (?!) and he completely changed the game.
With about fifteen minutes to play it became obvious that the U’s were going to get one back. Kelly put in a decent free-kick that gave Oxford hope. Our players were shaken and, I think, a bit shattered.
Longstaff senior missed a sitter after being set-up by ASM, on for an injured Joelinton, in the 90th minute and then the ref gave Oxford a free-kick that never was in the 93rd minute. The keeper came forward. We panicked. And Oxford equalised from a strike by Holland, a kid on-loan from West Ham, who hammered in what to be fair was one hell of a strike. The Oxford fans rejoiced…’2-0 and you fucked it up’.
The referee did everything he could throughout to get Oxford back in the game. He constantly gave them free-kicks that never were, let them get away with loads of fouls and denied Newcastle a blatant penalty. I hope you enjoyed your time in the telly you utter belmet.
The game went to extra-time which meant us missing our 11PM train. I had visions of a miserable night bus trip home through London and tears before bedtime. That there were no tears and only a lost voice and sore limbs was down to the impact of substitute Christian Atsu against an Oxford side who were completely drained of energy after that second goal and an early chance missed in the first few minutes of extra time, and an outrageous ASM winning goal in the 116th minute. The celebrations when it hit the net were spectacular and included, I later found out, a young man getting his penis out of his trousers and attempting a move they call the helicopter. Funny at the time but I imagine he’s on a register now and might struggle for work.
The players celebrated with the fans at the end. I got to bed at 0300 and the dog woke me up at 0600 to take her for a walk. The tiredness doesn’t matter though because wa ganni win the cup, reet?