On Saturday 23rd April 2011, I visited the Kassam Stadium for the first time to watch officially promoted Chesterfield face Oxford United.
After a brilliant and incredibly succesful first season at the B2Net Stadium, Chesterfield’s promotion to League 1 had finally become official the day before this game due to Wycombe’s failure to beat Torquay United, meaning the Spireites were promoted without kicking a ball. This meant that our visit to the Kassam Stadium for the match against Oxford United would be a big promotion party and a great day out.
We travelled down to Oxford and arrived at the ground in plenty of time, and so we did our usual routine of walking around the ground a couple of times and taking plenty of photos when visiting a new ground. The stadium looked very nice from the outside, but the lack of a stand behind the one of the goals left the it feeling almost unfinished. Nevertheless, it was a beautiful day down in Oxford (ironically the weather back in Sheffield was apparently horrendous!) and I enjoyed walking around taking in the matchday atmosphere before the game.
When we got into the stadium, we went and took our seats in the away section and the atmosphere was electric. All the fans were buzzing about the club’s promotion and loud chants of ‘We are going up’ and ‘We are top of the lague’ rang through the stadium all game, easily outsinging the Oxford supporters. The stand was packed with around 1,400 Chesterfield supporters, and there was a real party atmosphere.
Before the game, some Oxford United legends from the sides 1986 League Cup (it was then named the Milk Cup) winning side came on the pitch to wave to the fans.It was the 25th anniversary of their 3-0 victory over QPR and before todays game some of the ex players had attended a meal with supporters and watched a re run of the game before being introduced to the crowd.These included current Bristol Rovers manager Ray Graydon (the then Oxford assistant manager) Malcolm Shotton, Les Phillips as well as ex Chesterfield players Steve Hardwick and Trevor Hebbard who scored that day.Hebbard played at Chesterfield in the eary nineties and scored for the Spireites v Liverpool at Saltergate.He now works in a warehouse in Leicester.
Sadly the match couldn’t live up to the quality of the atmosphere and the game featured very few highlights. Tommy Lee made a few quality saves to keep the scores level, and Chesterfield really pushed for a winner late on, but not even a brief cameo from ‘Super’ Jack Lester could seal all 3 points. However, this point means that a victory against Bury on Monday will seal the League 2 title, and no matter what happens we will be playing League 1 football next season. “The Blues are going up!!!”
After the match, there were great scenes as all the players came over to the supporters and celebrated with the fans, waving the ‘Going Up’ signs and congratulating each other. A few Chesterfield fans spilled onto the pitch to celebrate with the players, buth both supporters and stewards were good and nothing kicked off. The celebrations lasted for a while after the match before the away supporters gradually began to head home ready for the massive match against Bury on Easter Monday which could be the game that decides who wins the League title.