Oxford United were undone by two second-half goals at Carlisle this afternoon. Leading through Danny Hylton's well-taken goal on half time, the U's were pegged back by a Michael Beck header and then beaten by a flick from sub Derek Asamoah in the final minute.
After back-to-back wins there were no changes to the starting XI for the U’s, who started the game solidly, seemingly determined not to concede an early goal: something that has been their Achilles’ heel at times this season. Tyrone Barnett flashed a speculative drive over the top on 11 minutes but the first 20 minutes were pretty cagey stuff from both sides.
Carlisle’s best efforts came when George Iliev sidefooted a Mark Beck knockdown over the bar after 18 minutes and then when Bck flicked a header a foot wide on 20, but otherwise United’s defence was solid enough, with Tareiq Holmes-Dennis again looking very composed at left-back.
Playing into a very strong headwind, United’s neat passing style suited the conditions and both full backs had shots just after the half-hour mark; Holmes-Dennis was too high with his and Joe Riley was too anxious with the second, driven well wide as he charged towards keeper Dan Hanford after a defence-splitting pass from the excellent Andy Whing, who has improved with every game since returning to the side.
At the other end Mullins and Wright threw themselves in the way of a goalbound effort from Iliev on 43 to keep it scoreless and then right on half time Hylton struck to make it 1-0. From the moment that Rose lofted the ball beyond the home defence there only looked one winner as Hylton won the race, in between the two centre-halves, and then made a bouncing ball look easy as he planted it beyond Hanford for his 11th of the season.
The home side may have been deflated to concede right on thw whistle but they came out strongly in the second half and first Beck and then Stephen Elliott rolled shots just the wrong side of the right-hand post in the first ten minutes, as the U’s dug in deep to preserve their slender lead.
They looked to have done the bulk of the hard work but with 17 minutes left they were finally breached as Beck, the home side's most dangerous player throughout, rose to power home a header from a Brad Potts cross, giving Clarke no chance at all.
The Yellows had defended stoutly and might have regained the lead when Barnett burst through but saw a deflected shot go wide on 72. A minute later and sub Callum O'Dowda fired a superb dipping shot just wide from the right-hand side, and when fellow sub James Roberts led a breakaway and had his shot blocked on 75 there was still plenty of time for United to find a winner.
Carlisle had come back strongly, though, and Asamoah reminded the U's of their defensive duties with an 82nd-minute shot that only just missed the target. However, in the 90th minute the former Northampton striker was at the near post to get a touch to a goalbound header from a corner and break the hearts of the magnificent travelling Yellow Army of fans who had backed their team so well.
Another great game to watch and the U's will feel hard done by not to come away with at least a point after giving their all for the cause once again.
Att: 4,329 Away: 362
Report by Chris Williams, Pictures Darrell Fisher, Stats by OPTA
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