Full-time report from Nuneaton
Oxford United ended their first team pre-season with a 0-0 draw against Coventry City at Nuneaton this afternoon. The U's created by far the better chances against their higher league opponents and will be pleased with the performance and growing understanding as they go into their league campaign.
United, playing in their red and black away kit for the first time, had an otherwise familiar look with the 11 starters likely to kick off the season next week at home to Crawley, although two injuries will raise concerns over the next seven days. Ryan Taylor’s afternoon ended after just 18 minutes after a no-nonsense tackle from Reda Johnson left the striker hobbling, while Liam Sercombe seemed to limp off five minutes into the second half.
Both sides had early crosses fizz across goal but beyond on-rushing attackers in the first five minutes as the game opened in bright fashion, with the emphasis on neat passing. Sercombe had the first shot on target after nine minutes, a skimming effort held comfortably by keeper Lee Burge, Alex MacDonald sliced an effort well wide on 24 and United had created the better chances against a Coventry side content to counter-attack with pace.
It made for an intriguing game and United again threatened on 30 minutes when the once again excellent Danny Rose hammered in a fierce shot from 25 yards that flicked off the retreating Sam Rickett’s leg and thumped against the bar with Burge beaten. Hylton headed the rebound home but was denied by an offside flag.
The U’s were on top and should have taken advantage of a swift move on 32 minutes that saw them squander a three-on-one advantage and allow Jordon Willis to recover and get a block in as Kemar Roofe tried to get the ball out from between his feet.
The chances continued to come in the second half of a game that was always played with a competitive edge. Hoban went close with a 47th-minute shot from 20 yards out that was heading for the bottom corner until the left glove of Burge somehow snaked out to clasp the ball at the vital moment. The U’s were then handed the perfect opening on 51 when Roofe lured Ryan Haines into an ill-advised challenge and was brought to earth. Hylton stepped up to take the penalty but leaned back and sent his spot-kick horribly over the bar and into the travelling Coventry fans.
Reprieved, Coventry made Sam Slocombe work with two saves in quick succession to keep shots from James Maddison and Adam Armstrong out, but United were defensively sound all afternoon and it was sub Josh Ruffels who almost found the breakthrough when he ended another fine move and a cut back from fellow sub Callum O'Dowda by pinging a shot against the right-hand post.
No matter if you are opening pre-season at Didcot or closing it against a League One side, results are not important but fans want to see progress and promise for the season ahead. On those grounds, United are in fine shape. Bring it on.
Slocombe, Baldock (Long 79), Mullins, Wright, Skarz, Roofe (Roberts 79), Rose (Ashby 79), Sercombe (Ruffels 51), MacDonald, Hylton (O’Dowda 64), Taylor (Hoban 18)
Report by Chris Williams, pictures Darrell Fisher.
Our thanks to Nuneaton Town for their hospitality.
See you next week. Oxford United v Crawley Town, Sky Bet League 2, the Kassam Stadium. Be there.