Two goals from Ethan Walker sent Preston North End through tonight as Oxford United's FA Youth Cup run finally ended. Walker's goals gave Preston a 2-0 win but the U's pressed them all the way and bow out of the competition with their heads held high.
United, all in yellow, started very brightly, with Fabio Lopes catching the eye down the left and Leon Chambers-Parillon and Fabio Sole looking comfortable in midfield, while youngest youngster Adam Smith had the first real opening, with home keeper Jimmy Corcoran grabbing his close-range effort at the second attempt after 12 minutes.
Preston then started to press and United keeper Max Evans had to be brave and punch one or two early crosses away from deep inside his own box, but on 18 minutes Evans was helpless as Walker cheekily gave his side the lead from the spot. Having been tripped by right-back Sam Johnson, Walker dinked his penalty straight down the middle as Evans flew to his left and could only admire the winger’s nerve.
Evans thwarted the dangerous Walker with a fine save after half an hour and centre back Viktor Milton got a crucial touch to a cross which looked destined for the forehead of striker Jacob Holland-Wilkinson just before the break, but United came back strongly and Tyler Goodrham blasted a free kick into the wall before Fabio Lopes came close to an equaliser with a clever effort that forced the backtracking Corcoran into an excellent save at full stretch.
Lopes and Chambers-Parillon almost found a way to level before the interval but soon after the break the game slipped from their grasp when, having made another outstanding save seconds earlier, Evans was beaten to a clipped through ball by the outstretched boot of Walker, who poked the ball home into the vacant net.
Subs Slavi Spasov and Connor Ferguson were thrown on for the last half hour to try and find a way back in and it did give the Yellows some late impetus; Spasov fired a free kick from the edge of the box over the bar, saw a further chance kicked away from close to the line, and forced Corcoran into the two best saves of the night as time ticked away, but it just wasn't to be and Walker's crisp finishes had been just too much, despite tremendous late pressure from the visitors.
No shame in defeat at this famous old stadium, but United will be frustrated, not so much with their performance - they worked tirelessly - but at missing the opportunity to make a little bit of history by going further than any other United youth team have done.
Don't let Deepdale be the end - there is a League Cup semi-final against AFC Wimbledon to look forward to at the weekend and the future remains bright. The future remains yellow...
Evans, Johnson, Milton, Jones, Elechi, Sole, Chambers-Parillon, Goodrham (Edwards 90), Lopes, Smith (Ferguson 62), Crook (Spasov 63)
Subs unused: Gardner, Grant, Owens, Niemczycki
Report by Chris Williams
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