Oxford United Under 18s continued their impressive run of form running out 3-1 winners against top of the table side AFC Bournemouth on Saturday in the Young Yellows' first fixture since the Christmas break.
With Covid-19 restrictions and the weather having put paid to a number of games over recent weeks, the U's showed no ill effects for the disruption despite the game also needing to be moved on to the 4G surface at Oxford City’s Court Place Farm stadium.
With Mac Masters, Tyler Goodrham and Will Owens missing through injury and Goalkeeper Eddie Brearey up in the first team group the Youth Team had a young look to it with 14 year-old Goalkeeper Monty Marriott on the bench for the 1st time.
With Lead PDP Coach Leon Blackmore-Such also called up to assist with first team preparations over recent weeks, it was Chris Hackett and Pablo Haysham in the dug out to lead the Yellows against a Bournemouth side that had played four games more than Oxford and had opened up an eight point lead at the top of the table.
A tight opening to the game saw both sides having chances as the wind and the swirling snow made defending difficult for both back lines.
Oxford broke the deadlock on 17 minutes where some clever interplay down the Oxford right led to the Bournemouth centre-back handling in the box to concede the penalty. Under 16s striker Gatlin O’DONKOR stepped up and slotted low into the corner to put the Yellows one up. O’Donkor, one of five Under 16s in the matchday squad, continued to cause problems for the visiting defenders as the half went on whilst the midfield three of GARDNER, COE and ANIFOWOSE began to assert their dominance as conditions deteriorated.
Shortly before half time the Yellows deservedly doubled their lead when the lively Adam SMITH finished coolly into the top corner from 12 yards out after another flowing move had set him free down the left-hand side.
No changes at half time saw Oxford continue to have the better of the game, but the strong Bournemouth side showed why they were the side to chase with a number of moments of real quality that needed second year Keeper Kie PLUMLEY to show his quality with a composed and calm performance. PLUMLEY underlined his potential with an important penalty save midway through the second half following a spell of Bournemouth pressure, getting down low to his left to palm the ball away to safety after Clint NOSAKHARE had been penalised harshly for handball.
Oxford continued to disrupt Bournemouth’s usual fluid style with a rugged and competitive showing across the pitch and the introduction of two further U16s in George FRANKLIN and Ibby SANKOH gave the youngsters the chance to get another taste of Youth Team Football.
Oxford finally killed off the game on 84 minutes when the impressive Jack GARDNER caught the visiting keeper off guard from a wide free kick driving the ball in at the near post when many would have expected a cross. A late penalty for the visitors failed to take the shine off a deserved victory in the first of a run of six games over the next three weeks that will define the season for this Young and exciting Yellows side.
UNITED: Plumley, Watt, Nosakhare, Golding, Johnson, Gardner ©, Anifowose (Franklin 70), Coe, Tiamuna (Crook 60), O’Donkor (Sankoh 85), Smith. Unused Sub – Marriott
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