LOYAL Oxford United supporters last night condemned a pitch invasion by a minority of fans which disrupted the second half of yesterday’s crunch game.

Supporters said the invasion distracted the U’s – and could have prevented them from going on to snatch a win.

The U’s were 1-0 down against Northwich Victoria near the end of the second half when four fans left the Oxford Mail stand and raced the length of the pitch.

When the game restarted Oxford equalised in the 84th minute, but this sparked a pitch invasion involving about 50 people.

After the invaders left the pitch after seven minutes and play restarted, Northwich went 2-1 up.

The club last night refused to make a statement about the behaviour of fans.

Simeon Bean, 32, from Botley, Oxford, said: “The pitch invasion seemed to destroy the concentration of the U’s players more than it did the players from Northwich.

“It’s disappointing not to be in the play-offs, but unfortunately it was too much to ask of the players, who looked nervous in the first half.

“Anyone who goes on the pitch is stupid and the club will have to answer a number of questions. This sort of trouble certainly won’t help Oxford United in the long run.

“You have to question whether there were enough stewards to cope with 10,000 fans.”

Ross Gardiner, 19, from Eynsham, added: “The people who ran on the pitch definitely disturbed the players.”

Eddie Lay, 19, from Eynsham, said: “There must have been at least 50 people on the pitch and they lost us the game.”

If Oxford had won and other results had gone their way, the U’s could have clinched a place in the Blue Square Premier League play-offs.

The U’s needed to win and needed Torquay to lose at home to Burton but the U’s lost 2-1 and Torquay won 2-1.

The pitch invasions at the Kassam Stadium contributed to seven minutes being added on at the end of the 90 minutes. Two of the pitch invaders scaled the fence at the car park end of the stadium before stewards could grab them.

United goalkeeper Billy Turley stepped in to stop another man, tackling him to the ground.

Mary Avery, 63, from Abingdon, said: “I’m sure there could have been a different result without the disruption.”

Lez Dix, 47, from Didcot, who was at the game with son Micky, 15, said: “The invasion cost the U’s the second Northwich goal — it definitely didn’t help them.”

Peter Mace, 35, a civil engineer from Woodstock, added: “Oxford could have won with more urgency up front.

“It’s a shame about a few idiots on the pitch but the support this season has been phenomenal.”

His girlfriend Litsa Alderson, 33, from Woodstock, said: “You can’t blame Billy Turley for grabbing one of the fans on the pitch— he just wanted to get on with the game.”

Peter Foster, 53, the father of U’s defender Luke Foster, who was watching the game in the South Stand, said: “It’s disgraceful those fans ran on the pitch — they can’t be genuine supporters.

“They ran on the pitch when Oxford were about to take a corner — it’s pathetic.”

Should the invaders face a ban
See: http://www.oxfordmail.co.uk/ballots/