Oxford United and Portsmouth picked up a point apiece this afternoon at the Kassam Stadium as Liam Sercombe's first-half opener was cancelled out by an Adam McGurk stunner in a 1-1 draw. Portsmouth, reduced to ten men when skipper Michael Doyle was sent off, remain unbeaten but were left hanging on by a United side who remain unbeaten at home.
With Sercombe, Johnny Mullins, and Kemar Roofe all back in the starting line-up, it meant a slight reshuffle and the versatile Danny Rose moving out wide to accommodate John Lundstram into the centre of the park for his first start at the Kassam Stadium.
Sercombe’s energy is terrific and allows United to hit on the counter-attack, as they were forced to do in the initial stages against a confident-looking Portsmouth side that is sure to feature prominently in the promotion race this season. The visitors enjoyed plenty of the ball in the first 15 minutes but were held at bay by the excellent United back four, allowing the Yellows to come more into the game and dominate the rest of the first half.
Callum O’Dowda’s trickery saw two excellent runs take him past desperate defenders and into dangerous positions, while Roofe announced his return with a typically flamboyant effort from 30 yards on 22 that no other player on the pitch would have thought about, let along attempted. It drifted wide but United were on the front foot now and with Lundstram starting to find his range they almost found the breakthrough on 27 when Hylton twisted on to one of his passes and forced visiting keeper Paul Jones into a good save.
The U’s were undeniably on top and on 33 they were in the lead through Sercombe. Hylton forced a corner which Wright attacked and Portsmouth only half cleared as far as Roofe. He didn’t catch his shot cleanly and it was blocked, but Sercombe was lurking on the edge of the box and fired the ball back through a sea of legs and beyond Jones to make it 1-0 with his second goal of an impressive season.
It might have been two before the break as Roofe diverted an O’Dowda shot just the wrong side of the post, O’Dowda’s last contribution before double vision shortened his afternoon and Alex MacDonald was introduced. Portsmouth were then indebted to Jones for a brilliant save in the last minute of the half as he got down to his left to push Roofe’s side-footed shot round the post after the striker had read a bouncing ball much better than two hapless Pompey defenders.
Portsmouth’s unbeaten start to the season was under threat but they came out in the second half much more like their usual selves. United were still comfortable and Slocombe had only had to cut out one dangerous cross, but sometimes a moment of brilliance is all it takes for a side to get back into a game and on 61 it came from McGurk. There seemed little danger as he looked up at goal 35 yards out, but the former Burton forward unleashed a superb shot that was past Slocombe in a flash, and levelled the game at 1-1.
Mullins had a shot saved and MacDonald fizzed an effort just over as the U's came back strongly, although it took a typically brave block from Mullins to deny Kyle Bennett at the other end. As has become customary, United then had to try and break down ten men when Pompey skipper Michael Doyle flew into an ill-advised challenge to try and stop the marauding Sercombe on the right wing. His second yellow meant a rearguard action for the last ten minutes for the visitors, with the Yellows pouring forward and camped in their half. Hylton headed a chance over, Pompey pulled all ten men back, and the final whistle came as a considerable relief for the visitors.
A good game between two good sides, in front of over 9,000 fans. Honours even.
Fifty/50 winning number: 400628 wins £1193.50
Report by Chris Williams, Pictures by Steve Daniels, Stats by Opta
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