Full time report from the Silverlake StadiumGoals from Johnny Mullins and Danny Hylton gave Oxford United a 2-0 win at Eastleigh this afternoon. Two goals in the final five minutes of the first half steered United past the Spitfires in a fiercely competitive game on a perfect summer's afternoon.
The U's may have been wearing their splendid new home kit for the first time but there was a familiar feel about their starting XI, with Danny Rose coming in for Michael Collins the one change to a line-up that saw Sam Slocombe behind a back four of George Baldock, Mullins, Jake Wright and Joe Skarz. Rose slotted in next to the impressive Liam Sercombe with Kemar Roofe and Alex MacDonald providing the width while Hylton and Ryan Taylor teamed up in attack.
There was a familiar look to the Eastleigh XI as well, where former United strikers James Constable, Jack Midson and Yemi Odubade formed a trio that will cause plenty of problems in the Vanarama National League over the coming months. Josh Payne, another former United man, linked things neatly in midfield as the game opened at a fierce tempo, with Odubade the first to threaten a goal at either end until Wright timed a brilliant tackle to take the ball off his toe inside the area.
MacDonald, excellent in this game, has looked dangerous throughout pre-season and tested debutant home keeper Michael Poke with a dipping effort on 22 minutes that forced the keeper to adjust at the last second to keep the ball out. MacDonald then clipped an effort just over the top after neat build up play from Baldock and Taylor, but the best chance for the home side in the first half came inevitably to Constable on 35 only for the former U’s hero to fluff his lines and fail to convert a tempting cross from the lively Odubade.
Hylton headed a presentable chance wide of the mark on 38, former Luton man Andy Drury blazed over the bar on 40, Constable fired into the side netting and the game was warming up nicely when United effectively ended it as a competition by netting two goals late in the first 45 minutes.
it was the ever-reliable Mullins who found the breakthrough on 44. Roofe drifted a free kick deep into the box from the left-hand side where MacDonald stooped to head the ball back across goal and the predatory Mullins forced the ball home from close to the goal line.
A minute later and it was 2-0 as Hylton strode away on to a long ball, checked inside and then thumped a fierce low effort across the keeper and into the bottom right corner to double the advantage at the break.
After a cagey first 30 minutes the game had opened up and chances continued to come at both ends in the second half. Constable was spared a decision on whether to celebrate or not when a linesman’s flag was raised just as he bundled the ball home on 47, then Roofe forced a noice save from sub keeper Lewis Noice two minutes later as the U's enjoyed an excellent spell of possession.
The Yellows began to see more of the ball and dominate possession in the second period but the home side are third favourites for promotion this year and looked a well-drilled side under another ex-Oxford man in Richard Hill, whose side competed strongly and made it a genuine test for the U's. The game tightened up and eventually slowed, but both camps will have taken plenty from a game that always had an edge but was a more than useful workout.
Slocombe, Baldock, Mullins, Wright, Skarz, Roofe, Sercombe (Ashby 78), Rose, MacDonald, Hylton (Hoban 46), Taylor (O'Dowda 61)
Report by Chris Williams, pictures by Darrell Fisher