United's unbeaten start to the season continued with an enthralling 2-2 draw at Whaddon Road this afternoon. Twice behind, United showed their typical resilience to claim a point thanks to goals from Dave Kitson
and Johnny Mullins
The U’s were forced into changes when skipper Jake Wright
was ruled out with a thigh injury which is likely to keep him out for a few weeks. With striker James Constable
also unavailable because of a foot injury it meant a return for Michael Raynes
at centre half and a different role for Alfie Potter
who moved to the centre behind Kitson to allow Scott Davies
to slot in to the right of midfield.
The absence of Wright meant the first disruption to the previously ever-present back five this season and it took time for the back line to settle. They were breached after eight minutes as hesitation allowed Terry Gornell to steal through. His low shot was cleverly hit across Ryan Clarke
so when the keeper pulled off a very fine save the ball was still travelling across the United box, where Byron Harrison was the first man to the ball to slot home and make it 1-0.
The Robins were rocking and Clarke was forced into two more decent saves before we reached 12 minutes as United fought to turn the tide. The one thing you can always rely on this season is a stubbornness throughout the team and willingness to fight their way back into the game and United were soon starting to impose their game on their hosts.
They were almost level on 20 minutes as Danny Rose
’s corner was powerfully headed goalwards by Mullins, forcing home keeper Scott Brown to tip the ball over the bar at full stretch. Mullins then slightly mis-hit a volley from a David Hunt
long throw to fire the ball wide after 23 minutes, Rose tested Brown with a 25 yard free-kick and Hall blasted a good effort just over on 30.
A goal was coming and when it did it was from a very direct route. Clarke launched the ball, Steve Elliott for some reason let the ball bounce, perhaps thinking the keeper was coming, and Kitson chased it down, got there before Brown and gleefully smashed the ball home into the empty net for his first United goal. The forward leads the side superbly and was at the heart of so much of United’s attacking play that a goal was an added bonus, gratefully accepted.
It was a fine game of football, played at a high tempo and with plenty of passion. Keith Lowe crashed a header against the post right on half time, but United would have felt hard done if that had gone in, having fought their way back into the game with typical character.
Having done the hard work United were behind again on 50 minutes. Sido Jombati created the opening as he was given too much space on the left and crossed a low ball in with the outside of his right boot. Harrison turned and forced Clarke into another excellent save at his feet but the ball could not have run more kindly for Gornell who had an empty net at his mercy to make it 2-1.
Back came the U’s and four minutes later Brown made a wonderful save as Andy Whing
looked to nod the ball over him from six yards after Mullins had once again won the ball in the air. The game was passionate, tempers were rising and on 57 it was 2-2 as Mullins smashed home his third goal of the season. Hunt, whose delivery is first class from the right, sent in another dangerous ball which the Robins struggled to cope with. Mullins is not one to stand on ceremony and when the ball ran his way his shot was destined for the net from the moment his low shot left his boot.
Backed by a superb 1,346 away crowd United fought for every ball and might have taken the lead for the first time on 70 as the hard-working Asa Hall let fly from 22 yards and forced Brown to save well at the foot of his right-hand post. The home side had penalty appeals waved away with eight minutes to go as the ball appeared to hit a hand inside the United area, but both sides had further legitimate half chances as the game went from end to end at terrifying speed.
A fine game of football, well contested and probably a fair result in the end. United remain unbeaten away from home in their lucky purple Isinglass shirts and now return home to take on league leaders Chesterfield at The Kassam Stadium. The last two unbeaten records in League Two come head to head. Book your place and join us for another fantastic afternoon of football.
Report by Chris Williams. Pictures by Darrell Fisher, stats by PA Photos