Oxford United came back from the dead to draw 2-2 at Luton Town this afternoon. 2-0 down, United roared back and goals from Kemar Roofe and Patrick Hoban, equalising in the 94th minute, capped a memorable first week of the season.
Both sides had enjoyed wins over higher league opposition in midweek and you could see the confidence and belief in both sets of players as the game began briskly. Sam Slocombe in the United goal had to make a smart save at the feet of Craig Mackail-Smith after six minutes and centre-half Scott Cuthbert nodded an 8th minute corner over the bar from ten yards as the Hatters created the better early openings.
Left back Wilkinson drilled a 25-yard effort just over the top on 13 and United had to weather a bit of a storm.
Alex MacDonald saw a 16th minute shot blocked as the cherry-red and black shirted U’s began to establish themselves at the other end. Kemar Roofe saw a free kick blocked and then a cross cut out before a string of dangerous corners from Danny Rose tested the Luton defence for the first time. United had grown into the game and one or two through balls were just a yard away from opening up the Luton defence. The improvement had coincided with a switch to a 4-1-3-2 shape that seemed to unsettle the Hatters, Danny Rose being the man just in front of the back four and dictating play from deep.
It looked as though two evenly matched sides were heading for half time level but three minutes before the break Patrick McCourt pinged in a corner from the right and Wilkinson soared highest to nod the ball down and into the bottom left corner of the net to make it 1-0 at the break. Infuriating timing and it might have been even worse a minute later as Cameron McGeehan drifted 30 yards with the ball and forced Slocombe into a good save. Having conceded from the previous corner, United this time scrambled it away after Paul Benson had tapped a header against the right hand post.
A goal down, United pressed forward after the break and had they capitalised on that spell then things might have been different. MacDonald was the man setting the tone and driving the visitors forward. His goal-bound effort was blocked by the midriff of McNulty and the winger then nodded home a Rose corner but was ruled to have pushed his man in the back to create that chance. Another Rose corner on the hour found the head of Ryan Taylor at the back post but flew just wide, but a flashing effort from Rose almost found the equaliser as it curled just wide from 20 yards.
Luton certainly knew they had been in a game but just after the hour they were 2-0 up and the U's were were facing a huge task. A long ball was half cleared by Mullins but McGeehan wasn't about to give it up and got his body between defender and ball then turned to stab his shot beyond the stranded Slocombe.
Try telling this United side that something is a lost cause. They came straight back at their hosts. Mullins thumped another effort against the bar from 20 yards, Roofe saw a deflected shot drift past the far post and then on 82 Roofe gave his side belated hope as he floated in from the right and fired past keeper Mark Tyler from the edge of the box via a deflection to take the keeper out of the equation.
The last eight minutes were tense and pulsating as the red and blacks swarmed all over the men in orange. Then in the 4th minute of injury time they earned the point they had deserved. O'Dowda crossed. Tyler flapped, the ball was stabbed at goal and Hoban joyfully poked the ball home from six yards to make it 2-2 and spark yet more superb scenes of celebration from Oxford fans, who have had a great week.
In the cold light of day probably a fair result, but for two sides with promotion ambitions the moral victory this afternoon belonged to the U's...
Report by Chris Williams, pictures by Darrell Fisher, stats by OPTA
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