James Constable's goal earns United the win
United's pre-season campaign continued with a solid victory over a strong Coventry side, with the game's only goal coming from a neat turn and shot by James Constable, who scored his first goal of the summer. The match was marred by a serious-looking injury to Jonathan Meades but that apart this was a good way for the first team to complete their preparations for 3rd August.
Oxford started with a line-up that gave little away regarding their intentions for the first game of the season at Portsmouth next Saturday. Fielding Jon Meades at left-back, Callum O’Dowda and triallist Ryan Williams, a right-winger Australia under-20 international, on the wings. Johnny Mullins made his debut and David Hunt his first start at home, while Deane Smalley ploughed a lone furrow up front.
United were immediately on the back foot, requiring a timely intervention from Williams to block a Leon Lobjoit cross. That was the story of the first 15 minutes, with the Sky Blues passing the ball around neatly penning Oxford in their own half.
On the quarter-hour make United won their first corner, from which Smalley powered in a header that had City keeper Joe Murphy back pedaling to tip the ball over the bar. Oxford, looking solid at the back, otherwise rarely threatened the Coventry goal in the first 35 minutes. At that stage a neat passing move involving Asa Hall and Hunt ended with O’Dowda teeing up Smalley, whose first-time shot was spectacularly palmed over the bar by Murphy.
That was the signal for United to increase their tempo, with Mullins just unable to direct his header goalwards followed by a 20-yard drive from Hall that drifted wide. Five minutes before the interval a Coventry free-kick was blasted at the goal by Leon Clarke, forcing namesake Ryan into a full-length save.
United made three changes for the second half, one of which paid immediate dividends. With just 10 seconds gone James Constable, on for Smalley, turned on the edge of the area and powered in a shot that was beyond the full-stretch dive of Murphy to open the scoring.
Three minutes later Constable exchanged passes with O'Dowda, with the young winger wriggling into position to prod the ball towards goal, but Murphy was down quickly to palm the ball aside. O'Dowda and Williams both looked lively on and off the ball, causing the Coventry full-backs backwards with their pace.
Coventry were stung into a response, but United kept then restricted to long-range efforts until Franck Moussa got round the back of the defence and rifled in a shot that Clarke did brilliantly to push over the bar. From the resulting corner Moussa's header looped over Clarke but Josh Ruffels was on hand to clear the ball off the line.
The U's were struck a big blow in the 70th minute when an innocuous challenge left Jonathan Meades writhing on the ground, requiring the full attention of the medical staff before being stretchered from the field, to be replaced by Tom Newey. The remainder of the game was played in a rather subdued atmosphere.
With nine minutes to go former Bradford winger Zavon Hines brilliantly controlled a long ball into the area but his pull-back to Moussa was blasted well over with the goal gaping. As they searched for an equaliser the visitors' neat passing game deserted them and they resorted to long balls looking for the distinctive figure of Leon Clarke, who was well marshalled by Mullins and Michael Raynes, who replaced Jake Wright at half-time.
As the game drew towards its conclusion it was United who ended on the front foot and in the end deserved their victory.
United: Clarke, Hunt, Mullins, Wright (Raynes HT), Meades (Newey 73), Williams (Bevans 66), Davies (Marsh HT), Whing (Ruffels), Hall, O’Dowda, Smalley (Constable HT)
Unused subs: Crocombe, Newey, Potter, Rose,
Att: 1,557 (301)
Fifty-50 ticket: 287181 wins GBP 218.00