An Historic Night In Oxford
Adam Dennehey looks back on the best night of Redbridge FC’s history, an FA Cup tie in Oxford.
The date 22/11/2011 will always be a date I will remember fondly. It was a magical night, one that often crawls back to the front of my mind on a regular basis, elbowing past the memories of the lass I was obsessed with in Secondary School, past Christmases, family holidays and even past the time I discovered my Grandpa was only good at Countdown because he recorded episodes before I came round to his flat to watch them as he played them back after seeing them on his VHS tapes!
The occasion was on a cold night. The venue was Court Place Farm just of the A40 and it was the night Redbridge FC defeated Oxford City 2-1 after extra-time in an FA Cup First-Round replay! Quite arguably the best night/match I have been experienced in almost 6 years of involvement in non-league football.
In the original tie at the Oakside, we somehow drew the game 0-0. Our boys put on an heroic display spearheaded by our keeper Adam Rafis in goal (who made at least 7-8 world class saves to keep us in the game) and could have nicked the game in injury-time but for Matt Turpin’s header from a corner being ruled out for ‘barging’ inside the penalty area.
Our lads were proud of our performance but I couldn’t just help wonder if it was a missed opportunity for us to book ourselves an historic position in the Second-Round. After all if we could only just hang onto secure a goalless draw at home, we’d have to put on one helluva performance to win at a side who were flying high in their division.
Making my way down to the game on a Supporters Coach, containing 14 fans (and the driver obviously) I was nervously and quietly confident that we’d put on a good performance. After all I had given my prediction on Twitter. I was confident that Nathan Gordon, our strong-as-two-ox’s right-sided winger would get on the score-sheet but felt that the game would end 2-1. I was sitting firmly on the fence and didn’t know who would win but was certain that it would be a close game regardless.
After arriving at the ground 15-20 minutes before kick-off thanks in no-part to a delay on the motorway and our driver missing a turn-off, I wished our players and management staff the best of luck for the game and sat down with our committee and one of our fans Jeff in the space reserved for our committee.
Jeff, a cab-driver, was already enjoying his night after I had saved him a couple of quid after bagging him a programme from the board-room inside the clubhouse. He, like the rest of our fans, couldn’t quite believe we’d gone so far in the world’s greatest cup competition. It was all so ‘new’ to him, after all he was only into his first full season watching us and he felt privileged to have come down on the coach to watch the game.
We started the game quite well but after 18 minutes ex-Leyton Orient forward Lee Steele’s shot crept under Rafis and the hosts were ahead and on the balance of play probably deservedly went into the break 1-0 up.
I felt it’d be interesting to go and watch the second-half behind the dugouts over the other side of the ground. Jeff and the coach driver followed us and along with a couple of our players parents were crammed in behind the Redbridge dugout.
With 20 minutes to go we drew level. Vinnie Durrant’s free-kick into the box saw James Robinson fouled inside the area. Ben Bradbury stepped up. Our manager Terry Spillane’s son Tom aka ‘Chino’ was confident that he’d score, after all ‘Bradders’ had scored each of his 5 previous penalties in the season going into the game. Mitchell Das on the other hand was certain he’d miss.
Das was right but thankfully Keith McLoughlin’s save fell straight to Gordon who slid the ball home. With us back in the game we were unlucky not to win the game in normal time when Bradbury and substitute Joe Gardner forced the keeper into two stunning saves.
Extra-time as we know came and went and ended with the Motormen on top thanks to a stunning strike from Bradbury on 102 minutes who after receiving a great pass from substitute Ryan Murray, twisted inside his marker before burying a shot past McLoughlin at his near-post.
That second period of extra-time seemed to last forever but when the referee finally blew for full-time, it felt like the biggest party ever as all the players, me and some of our committee members ran on the pitch joining in the celebrations. We had secured an away tie to eventual League Two champions Crawley Town to cap what had been a terrific start to the season.
Yes we got tonked 5-0 with Matt Tubbs scoring a hat-trick, but that didn’t matter. Well it did matter; it would have been nice to have gone to Championship side Hull City in the Third Round but we had our finest day as a club. It was due to the dedication and hard-work of our management team and 100% commitment from a group of players whom for me will always be Redbridge legends.
Enjoy watching my highlights of the game that are up on YouTube as well as those from the FA’s where you might notice the lad running in a coat wearing a Manchester United scarf, which would well appear to be me!
Many thanks to Adam for this trip down memory lane. Follow Adam on twitter: @TheMotormen