Oxford United came out on top in a highly entertaining pre-season friendly at Court Place Farm tonight. Trailing 3-1 early in the second half despite James Henry's first half goal the U's stormed back and goals from Tariqe Fosu, Gavin Whyte, Kyran Lofthouse and Malachi Napa eventually saw them home with a 5-3 win.
There was a shock in just the third minute when former United starlet Josh Ashby reminded us of the talent he has always possessed with a wicked cross which Stefan Brown steered past the helpless Jack Stevens with ease.
Stevens, from the same generation as Ashby, showed what he can do as well with a fine save from Jack Self after ten minutes but United were easing themselves into the game with Cameron Brannagan spraying the ball around nicely and John Mousinho urging his younger teammates forwards.
Many Oxford fans will have had the chance to see Aaron McCreadie in action for the first time and the youngster took his chance well, sitting in front of the back four and keeping things simple, while another new face, Kevin Berkoe, kept the shape well at left back. The more familiar Henry sent an ambitious effort in to the car park on 25 but looked sharp between Owen James and Fabio Lopes in a three-man line behind lone striker Malachi Napa.
Centre-half Nico Jones missed his kick with a presentable chance on 29 minutes, the excellent Sam Long scuffed a drive on 35 and home keeper Steven Carrow made a good save from James as United pressed for an opener before the break but suddenly City were two up as Jack Self leapt to head a Kyran Wiltshire cross past Stevens from close range and double the lead.
Fortunately for United, Henry was on hand to pull one back in first-half injury time when a rebound found him on the right of the area and he blasted home via a deflection, but seven minutes into the second half and City’s two goal cushion was back when Danny Rowe seized on a loose ball and curled a beauty past Stevens to make it 3-1.
Things were looking slightly rough but then United raised the tempo, raised their game and suddenly hit their stride.
On 62 minutes it was 3-2 when Tariqe Fosu rattled home his first goal for the club with a powerful free kick from 20 yards that flew into the top corner. Seven minutes later and it was 3-3 when Napa was bundled over by Joe Oastler and Gavin Whyte rolled home the penalty. City were furiously backpedalling but United were on top now and on it was 4-3 on 73 when Napa crossed and sub Lofthouse volleyed home with his first touch.
On 77 minutes the goal of the night came from the energetic Napa, who volleyed home a scorching goal to cap a fine display and ensure that the Yellows would come out on top.
You can't have it both ways: the result at Ibrox was irrelevant on Sunday and this scoreline will be forgotten soon enough, but just for a few minutes there had been the first questions asked of the U’s and they had responded.
Highly encouraging and the U’s now move on to game 3 of the week: away at Thame United on Wednesday night.
Report by Chris Williams, pictures by Darrell Fisher
13 Jack STEVENS
12 Sam LONG
15 John MOUSINHO
46 Nico JONES
33 Kevin BERKOE
36 Aaron MCCREADIE
8 Cameron BRANNAGAN
47 Fabio LOPE
17 James HENRY
39 Owen JAMES
21 Malachi NAPA
13 Jack STEVENS (Max HARRIS 85)
12 Sam LONG (Kyran LOFTHOUSE 72)
4 Rob DICKIE
22 John GUTHRIE
3 Josh RUFFELS
6 Alex GORRIN
34 Aaron HEAP
21 Malachi NAPA
47 Fabio LOPES
11 Tariqe FOSU
10 Gavin WHYTE