It is on the last afternoon of the season, with some to decide, that you miss the presence of supporters in stadiums more than ever.
The Chinese whispers about crucial targets flying into remote areas can change the mood of tens of thousands of people in the blink of an eye.
The old-school fan with the transistor radio pressed to his ear that becomes the focus of everyone’s attention, or the more modern method of target alerts for cell phones and WhatsApp messages.
Elliot Lee celebrates as Oxford United beat Burton 4-0 to reach new League One play-offs
The hasty mental arithmetic to calculate point count and goal difference and the shock wave of emotion caused by news from elsewhere being relayed to the players on the field.
We could all imagine that only yesterday on the last day of the regular League One season:
The exciting atmosphere at Kassam Stadium, where Oxford United scored four goals against Burton Albion, but still had a hunch that Portsmouth would make a miraculous late comeback to secure the final play-off spot.
The feeling of desperation in Fratton Park when Pompey finally failed, losing 1-0 to Accrington Stanley, who dropped out of the top six and saw their hopes of promotion fade away.
The palpable flatness of the occasion here in the Valley, as Oxford’s goals turned Charlton Athletic’s 1-0 win over champions Hull City into an academic.
Desperation for Ronan Curtis and Portsmouth, as their defeat to Accrington saw them pass
We will never know if fans would have made a difference to the outcome. Would the rattling noise of the Pompey Chimes have roused their team to the victory they needed?
Superfan John Portsmouth Football Club Westwood could be heard outside Fratton Park – a lone voice spurring the team on – but their many chances were pleading.
So in the end, the final lacked the nerve-racking drama and thrill of Saturday’s relegation shootout.
Oxford will face Blackpool in the semi-finals of the playoffs, while Sunderland will take on Lincoln City – and the dust has settled without any sensational twists and turns.
We had a pretty clear idea of the outcome in the first half hour as Oxford took a two-goal lead thanks to goals from Olamide Shodipo and Matty Taylor.
In between, Accrington’s Adam Phillips had scored a striking goal at Portsmouth and Oxford replaced them in sixth place with a two-point lead.
Elliot Lee had extended Oxford’s lead by the time Charlton broke the deadlock against Hull thanks to an own goal from Jacob Greaves. That brought Charlton level with Oxford, but their inferior goal difference forced them to score seven. Hull, who secured the title last weekend, was way too good for that, even though celebrations were underway.
So the only way Oxford could be denied was if Pompey conjured two late goals. Despite opportunities for Ronan Curtis, George Byers and Charlie Daniels, they couldn’t muster one, let alone two.
Charlton manager Nigel Adkins saw his team miss the play-offs on goal difference
Oxford finished with a dashing finish when Sam Winnall scored a fourth and there were only two anxious minutes left before the final whistle sounded in Fratton Park.
The players gathered in a group on the field. A voice could be heard asking, “How long will it be?” Then a roar confirmed they’d done it and the hugs and high-fives could begin.
“It’s different not having fans because I’m sure the roof would have gone off when Accrington’s goal went in,” said Oxford manager Karl Robinson. ‘We are over the moon. To achieve this is an incredible achievement and to go into the playoffs as those who are not expected to advance. We are extremely proud to be in the play-offs for consecutive years – it is a great feeling. ‘
Oxford lost at Wembley to Wycombe last season and no matter what happens from here, Robinson will be watching from the stands while serving a four-game sideline ban.
A different mood prevailed in Portsmouth. “If we’re being honest, when the pressure came up, we didn’t play with enough courage,” said manager Danny Cowley. ‘I am bitterly disappointed and it is always terrible when you feel that you have let people down.
‘In the end, we ended up where we deserved it. I don’t think the table is after 46 games. ‘
For Charlton boss Nigel Adkins, who came in just 10 games ago, it was all about looking ahead. “Now that we know which division we are in, as a football club we have to get started to put together a team and then challenge it in the snakes and ladders of the Football League, the emotions and the ups and downs.”
And, we hope, back with the fans to experience it all.
Hull City manager Grant McCann celebrates with the League One trophy after being crowned champion and promoted to the championship