OXFORD United fans cannot roar their team on in person against Portsmouth, but a generous group is ensuring fellow yellows can be there in spirit.

With the Sky Bet League One play-off semi-finals taking place behind closed doors, supporters can buy cardboard cut-outs of themselves to ‘watch’ Monday’s second leg from the stands.

More than 500 were ordered within a week of going on sale as fans rushed to book their seats, but the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic means the £25 fee could put some people off.

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U’s supporter James Schall is keen to ensure all fans are represented at the Kassam Stadium and began connecting those unable to afford a cut-out with others who are willing to pay on their behalf.

It is extra poignant for the 48-year-old, who has arranged a cut-out of friend and well-known United fan Andrew Knapton.

Mr Knapton died in the summer of 2001 – just a few months before the U’s moved from The Manor Ground to Grenoble Road – but Mr Schall and fellow United supporter Darrell Fisher have ensured he will be at Monday’s game.

Mr Schall said: “I used to stand with Andrew in the London Road end.

“Every time I go to home games I tap his plaque in the East Stand, but he was never able to go to the Kassam in person.

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“His sister said something which really resonated, that she’d love to see him looking down on the pitch at the Kassam.

“The penny dropped. It made me think about all those people with impactful stories, who can’t afford to be at the game.”

Oxford Mail:

James Schall (left), with Oxford United superfan Kotaro Sumita

Mr Schall tweeted a rallying call and received eight replies from supporters who could not afford cut-outs – plus a staggering 45 from people who wanted to help.

With the help of independent supporters’ trust OxVox, he has since introduced fans to each other, ensuring four people who have passed away and four children will have their cut-outs displayed on Monday.

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The North Oxfordshire resident was inspired by OxVox, after the group funded a cut-out of loyal U’s fan Andy ‘Womble’ James, who died last October.

Mr Schall said: “We’re really lucky as fans because we get to games home and away.

“I’m very fortunate that my work and health allows me to do that.”

The United fan hopes the togetherness shown by supporters could make the difference on the pitch as Karl Robinson’s side look to take a giant step towards the Championship.

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He added: “It might get one per cent of extra effort from them, but that might get us over the line.

“We’re one club in this county and city.

“It’s a wonderful club and the fans have just come to the fore.

“It isn’t just about the individuals, but it’s about showing the players we care.

“If a family member of someone who has passed sees a glimpse of that person I can only imagine what it would mean.”