U's downed by Spitfires
United's penultimate game before the real action starts was at Eastleigh's Silverlake Stadium, where the Bridle banners around the ground would have made many of the players feel at home. An unfamiliar looking Oxford side went down to a goal in either half as former U Craig McAllister opened the scoring and Jai Reason added a second in the dying moments of the game.
The U's started with a mixture of triallists and first team players, with first year pro Ty Marsh and second-year scholar Callum O'Dowda thrown into the mix. United had a strong-looking bench though, with almost all the remaining fit first team players waiting to be involved.
United made the early running, and a sublime ball from Adam Chapman in the third minute sent JP Pittman clear, but the covering defender made a well-timed tackle in the area to concede the game's first corner. Five minutes later and the Spitfires had their first attempt when a strike from Jai Reason whistled just wide. After 16 Tom Jordan had a free header at the far post, but he could only direct the ball straight at Clarke as the opening passage was fairly even. United did get the ball in the net on 32 after another perfect pass from Chapman found Tom Craddock in space, but United's captain for the day was flagged offside.
The game livened up just before half-time when the United defence was slow to react to a ball over the top and Marvin Williams raced through to reach the ball just before Clarke. Williams unselfishly pulled the ball back for former Oxford striker Craig McAllister to stroke the ball into the empty net to give the home side the lead. Less than a minute later O'Dowda raced clear down the left and drew a full-length save from Jack Dovey, who fingertipped O'Dowda's shot to safety. Eastleigh responded in kind, with McAllister blasting over from 12 yards under pressure. In the final minute Craddock hit the post from the narrowest of angles.
United were unchanged for the second half and seven minutes in JP drove in a shot that arrowed a whisker over the bar. This was matched at the other end by Michael Green as both sides looked to attack. Scholar Callum O'Dowda certainly didn't look out of place, and it took a cynical block by Mitchell Nelson to prevent the younster racing clear. Eastleigh's pacy wingers often threatened United on the break, but dogged defending from the Oxford rearguard kept the Spitfires grounded.
As the rain teemed down McAllister raced clear again and his angled shot beat Clarke but span back off the post, with Moses Ademola blasting the rebound over the empty goal. The rest of the second half followed a similar pattern, with both teams taking it in turn to attack. With five minutes remaining United came close to creating a chance when O'Dowda's early cross found Craddock on the edge of the six yard box, but he was crowded out as he tried to turn.
With two minutes remaining Eastleigh made sure of the win as Jai Reason converted a low cross. The final score was possibly harsh on United, but Eastleigh showed that they will be a force to be reckoned with in the Blue Square South next season.
United: Clarke, Kamara, Foot, Tafazoli, McGinty, Chapman, Peterlin, Craddock, Pittman, Marsh, O'Dowda (Long 88)