United within one round of Wembley after 3-2 win
Oxford United's fantastic season continues on three fronts as they moved to within one round of a Wembley final tonight. Stunning goals from Jordan Evans and Chris Maguire on their Kassam Stadium debuts, plus a Callum O'Dowda strike, saw United through with a 3-2 win over Yeovil Town this evening at the Kassam Stadium. Evans' magnificent goal in the third minute set the tone for an impressive display by the U's, whose one moment of concern came when Wes Fogden levelled things. However, an O'Dowda goal restored the lead before the break and a Maguire piledriver sent the U's through to the Area Final despite a last-minute goal from Shaun Jeffers for the visitors.
There are debuts and there are debuts! Evans was three minutes into his first senior start and 35 yards out when he advanced on to a ball on the left side of midfield. No hesitation, the Fulham left back strode forward and unleashed a fantastic effort which ripped past keeper Chris Weale’s right hand and into the top left corner of the net for a superb goal.
It was just the start that Yeovil will have dreaded against the in-form Yellows, but it meant they had to come at the U’s, and they responded well to conceding so early, passing the ball around neatly and pressing the home side high up the pitch. However, the new look back four of Evans, Chey Dunkley, the fit again Sam Long and Jake Wright looked strong and composed and the recalled Sam Slocombe looked very assured in his handling.
Maguire, excellent all night, bracketed the goal with a couple of long-range efforts just before the half hour but on 36 minutes it was 1-1 as the Glovers scored a cleverly worked goal. Ben Tozer made it with some smart footwork in the middle and a flicked pass between two defenders for Fogden to push out of his feet and then tuck comfortably between Slocombe and the left-hand post.
However, the Glovers were unable to hold on to their lead until half time with O’Dowda drilling home a 42nd minute second for United. Josh Ruffels, back in midfield alongside the influential John Lundstram, did well on the left to beat his man and get the ball across. Yeovil diverted the cross but only as far as O’Dowda who had room on the right corner of the six yard box to twist past the full back and send in a low shot that squirmed through Weale’s arms and over the line to make it 2-1 at the break.
Maguire might have had a penalty on 51 when he raced away and went round the keeper but was adjudged to have lost his footing rather than being bundled over by a recovering defender. Three minutes later he had his revenge with another stunning goal. Long worked the room for a cross for MacDonald to squeeze a pass through for Maguire on the left of the penalty area. The on-loan Rotherham striker touched the ball into space on his right then smashed it beyond the startled Weale to make it 3-1.
And that was just about that. Yeovil have improved since the league meeting earlier in the season, but so have the U's who controlled the last half hour of the game. MacDonald went close with a rising effort from 30 yards after 73 minutes and there was late drama when Jeffers steered the ball across Slocombe in injury time to make it 3-2, but the U's had been in cruise control prior to that moment and fully deserved to make progress.
Uncharted territory for United, who now go on to face Millwall in the area final, with Barnsley facing Fleetwood in the northern final. The draw for home advantage in the first rounds will take place tomorrow.
A home draw against Swansea in the third round of the FA Cup, one tie from Wembley in the JPT, and top of the league. Good times for the U's who now welcome Carlisle United to the Kassam Stadium in Sky Bet League 2 on Saturday.
See you there.
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Report by Chris Williams, pictures Steve Daniels. Stats by OPTA
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