Oxford United’s Youth Team secured their second league title in three seasons on Saturday as they came out 2-0 winners away at Newport County in their final Youth Alliance South West Division game.
Starting the day five points clear the young Yellows knew that a win in South Wales would see closest challengers AFC Bournemouth unable to catch them despite having a game in hand.
Starting with an unchanged side from their midweek win against Yeovil, Oxford started the brighter of the two sides and narrowly missed taking the lead when an Adam Smith cross was headed just wide by centre-forward Callum Crook.
Imposing first-year centre-back Clinton Nosakhare should have done better 10 minutes later when his powerful header from a Jack Gardner corner narrowly flew over the bar from 5 yards and a lively Newport side, playing with a back three and including a number of players who had featured in their First Team earlier in the season, continued to pose a threat themselves. However the energetic Gardner, captaining the side in midfield and well supported by Elijah Coe and Tyler Goodrham ensured that Oxford continued to have the better of the possession.
Half time saw the sides level but the introduction of under 16s midfielder Enrique Tiamuna once again gave the visitors a lift as they continued to look for the opening goal.
Further changes saw Josh Anifowose and under 16s Gatlin O’Donkor and George Franklin enter the fray but it was Goodrham who once again outlined his quality on 71 minutes as he cut back inside, wrong-footing the Newport defender before bending a right footed shot into the top right hand corner for the crucial opener.
With time expiring striker O’Donkor sealed the game with his twentieth goal of the season as he bravely latched on to a through ball, lifting it over the keeper and taking a heavy collision in the process.
The referees final whistle confirmed Chris Hackett, Pablo Haysham and Leon Blackmore-Such’s young side as champions in a hugely challenging year and, whilst winning Leagues at under 18s level is not the ultimate aim in the development of young players, it is certainly an achievement to be proud of for all involved.
Attention now turns to Tuesday as the young U18s look to build on their League triumph and try to progress through their regional semi-final in the EFL cup against Gillingham.
Congratulations to all involved.
UNITED: Plumley, Sankoh, Nosakhare, Golding, Johnson, Gardner, Coe (Anifowose), Goodrham, Owens (Tiamuna), Crook (O’Donkor), Smith (Franklin).
Unused sub: Marriott (GK)
Inj: Masters, Watt, Grant, Richardson
Squad members, Brearey, Niemczycki