Oxford five-point penalty met with wry smile in Swindon

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Robins devotee Nick Judd has a conservative chuckle about a rival's misfortune...

This week’s news that Oxford United have received a five-point deduction has caused as many sniggers in Swindon as a fart in a school assembly.

The Us were punished for fielding a player they forgot to register with the Conference at the start of the season. Seems that someone at OUHQ forgot to register poor ol’ Eddie Hutchinson, despite the fact that he’d been at the club for nearly three years.

Still, they won 11 points with him in the side, so they can consider their five-point docking a stern ticking off as opposed to a caning.

Playing without permission: Oxford's Eddie Hutchinson

The news sees their slender play-off hopes lose even more ground. Before the announcement, they were nine points behind Torquay United, who occupy the last play-off spot. Now they/’re 14 points adrift.

Don’t get me wrong, it is pretty funny to see our main rivals pottering about in the Conference, even funnier to see them struggling. This is their third season at that level, but I would much rather be playing them than not.

What’s the point in having a rival if you don’t have the opportunity to humiliate them twice a season? For a start, games between us boost the coffers by filling the ground, while for us fans Swindon vs Oxford was always the first game we looked for on the fixture list.

Playing Bristol Rovers just doesn’t stir the same feeling in the loins, while the prospect of playing Bristol City or Reading any time soon is as likely as Jermain Defoe winning best-dressed and most-popular footballer.

I’ve had this conversation with my Portsmouth-supporting colleague at work and, like many Town fans, he agrees that he would much prefer Pompey's main rivals Southampton to slip down the football pyramid into a vat of football misery and death than return to play them in the top flight.

The rate Pompey are going they’ll be meeting their rivals in the Championship soon anyway, but many Robins fans feel the same derision for Oxford; they’d love to see them suffer and tumble into the Conference South and fall foul of the inevitable financial pitfalls that would bring.

No love lost between Pompey and Saints fans

But not me. Some of our encounters with the yellows have provided some of the best – and worst – moments in my Swindon-supporting life.

From Steve Robinson’s incredible double at the Manor Ground in March 2001 to the back-to-back 4-1 home wins in 1997 and 1998, playing Oxford can be the stuff of legend. I can even appreciate the bad times, they make the good even more euphoric.

Losing 5-3 in 1992 was painful, but we got our own back a year later, something we’ve not been able to do since our last encounter; the shocking 1-0 defeat in the FA Cup in front of the television cameras.

And despite the hatred we felt for Joey Beauchamp – who left us to return to whence he came, and score in a 3-0 win on his return – he made for some excellent terrace banter.

So while we’re playing Huddersfield this week I’ll spare a thought for our rivals and their ‘big’ game against Altrincham, even if it is with a wry smile on my face…

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