Oxford United U18s began their Youth Alliance League campaign with a 4-1 loss away at Plymouth Argyle today in a dramatic game that saw three penalties and two red cards in a frustrating game for the youngsters who dominated possession throughout the afternoon.
The match began in typical opening day fashion with both sides lively and eager to make an impression from kick off. A few heavy challenges from both sides went unpunished as the match began with high intensity.
It was the home side who took the lead however, when a forward burst into the area and finished beyond Max Evans with a low strike.
The U’s improved from the early setback and pressed their Plymouth counterparts. The young United side's pressure paid off midway through the first half after they won a penalty from an Argyle handball with the defender being sent off in the process. Leon Chambers-Parillon stepped up but his penalty to the keeper’s right was saved well.
The Pilgirms then doubled their lead shortly after through a fantastic solo goal when a midfielder dribbled into the area round three Oxford defenders and finished well past Evans. Work to do for United, but the young U’s were firmly in with a chance with the extra man.
A change at the break saw striker Crook come on for Jordan Edwards and the youngsters dominated possession in the opening ten minutes of the second half.
Tempers flared on 65 minutes as Jack Stevens was fouled on the wing, resulting in another Plymouth man being shown a red card.
Down to nine men, Plymouth launched their first attack of the half, and a Plymouth forward was adjudged to have been fouled in the area. The chance from the spot was taken and the home side extended their lead.
Minutes later United were awarded a penalty for a similar foul on Crook. Jack Stevens stepped up from the spot but the Plymouth goalkeeper made another fantastic save to deny the U’s.
United continued to dominate possession in the closing stages but failed to make chances. Caught on the break five minutes from time, United conceded a fourth after a Plymouth forward rounded goalkeeper Evans and rolled the ball home.
United did get one back late on through Crook's glancing header but it was a frustrating start to the young U's' season after making the long trip to Plymouth.
UNITED U18s: Evans, Gardner, Johnson, Chambers-Parillon, Barnett-Grant, Jones, Goodrham, Trialist, Edwards, Stevens, Trialist
Report by Liam Potter