Oxford United’s under 18s are still in the hunt for the South West Division title in the EFL Youth Alliance after a 1-1 draw against Bristol Rovers on Saturday morning.
Playing in tough conditions with driving rain and freezing temperatures at Court Place Farm the young U’s stood up not just to the weather but also the physical demands of playing three times in a week immediately after coming back from an enforced break due to Lockdown.
Having controlled long periods of the first half United might have taken the lead but saw midfielder Elijah Coe’s effort his the bar from 20 yards.
However with right-back Ben Watt catching the eye with his pace and willingness to join the attack they eventually took the lead when Watt was upended in the box and 16-year-old striker Gatlin O’Donkor scored from the spot - his third penalty of the week.
Boosted by the return of winger Tyler Goodrham (pictured) who played 45 minutes as he makes his comeback after injury and Mac Masters coming through 90 minutes after an ankle problem United created chances and also gave George Franklin, Enrique Tiamuna and Ibby Sankoh the opportunity to impress as they stepped up from the under 16s.
Rovers were always in the game though and drew level when a free kick was fired through the wall, beating keeper Kie Plumley to give Rovers a point despite an amazing last chance for the U’s when Tiamuna met a Jack Gardner ball into the box but hit his own man, James Golding, on the line!
The U’s now face Rovers again, at Court Place Farm on Tuesday before playing Portsmouth next Saturday.
Academy Manager Dan Harris told us:
“It was a big ask for the lads last week and to get a win, a draw and a defeat from three very demanding games, straight after coming back is a decent return.
"We are asking a lot of them at the moment in terms of commitment, travelling in to training from afar and so on, but they are doing the right things and the way they are pushing themselves all the time is outstanding. The under 16s are back in for training this well and with games being played we feel we are all still moving in the right direction.”
Plumley, Watt, Golding, Masters, Johnson, Gardner, Anifowose (Goodrham), Coe (Franklin) Smith (Sankoh), Crook (Tiamuna) O’Donkor