Oxford United bowed out of the Johnstone's Paint Trophy at the first hurdle tonight as they were beaten 2-0 at Cheltenham Town. Headers from John Marquis and Koby Arthur sent the Robins through against ten-man United who saw Jon Meades sent off in the second half.
The U's started the game very well and should really have been ahead in the first period. Will Hoskins, on his full debut, had the chance for a first United goal as early as the third minute as a driving run from the adventurous Joe Riley ended with a ball into the box that Hoskins took in his stride, only for Jack Deaman to slide in and take the ball off his foot at the vital moment. Junior Brown, back in the side after suspension, drove just over the bar a minute later, swiftly followed by a Hylton header going the same way and the U’s had set their stall out early with some neat attacking play. The Robins had an early cross from Craig Braham-Barrett drop on to the top of the bar on nine minutes but otherwise United had looked solid, with Michael Raynes doing well on his return to the side.
The 13th minute saw vanishing spray for the first time in a United game and a superb free kick from Riley pushed round the post by keeper Trevor Carson. Meades, another to come back into the team, also looked very composed in the middle of the park until his red card, while further forward Brown dribbled his way to the edge of the box but curled his shot just outside the post on 19 minutes.
Hylton rose to meet a 23rd-minute corner but headed over once more but it was another open game and it took an important header from Tom Newey at the other end on 36 to keep out a Deaman header as the home side started to threaten for the first time just before the break. Jason Taylor fired a warning shot just over and then in injury time at the end of the half the Robins went in front when a corner from the left was met by Marquis and dispatched beyond the helpless George Long to make it 1-0 at half time.
The goal lifted Cheltenham who had a good spell early in the second half without really testing Long further. United then came back after the hour mark and had efforts from Hylton and Newey blocked on 65, but having gathered a little momentum they then found their task made much harder as Meades threw himself into a challenge on Taylor on half way. He had timed every challenge on the night but this time ref Brendan Malone felt it was a lunge rather than a tackle and, with Taylor reacting angrily, Meades was dismissed despite his protestations of innocence.
United regrouped and showed plenty of energy - Carlton Morris replacing the tiring Hoskins for the last 15 minutes - and threw men forward against a well-drilled Cheltenham back line. They had a half chance when Potter sprinted clear and slipped the ball for Hylton whose delayed shot was blocked but it was leaving them exposed at the back and on 79 minutes it was game, and Trophy, over as Terry Gornell crossed and Arthur sent his header unerringly into the far corner of the net to make it 2-0.
The rest of the night was all about Cheltenham seeing things through to ensure they go into the draw for the next round. The U's once again had their moments and made the game an enjoyable spectacle but having gone out of two cup competitions in the last seven days they now need to channel all their energy into their league games, starting at Southend on Saturday.
Report by Chris Williams. Stats by OPTA, Pictures by Darrell Fisher