Patrick Hoban hammered home a second-half goal to earn Oxford United a point at home to Newport County this evening. Trailing to a wonder strike from Lenell John-Lewis, the U's had to settle for a draw despite dominating most of the second half.
Unchanged from the side that won at a similarly stubborn Dagenham on Saturday, the U’s started well and a clever free kick from Alex MacDonald brought the first save from keeper Joe Day after six minutes as the Yellows pressed. Newport sat back and soaked up pressure, leaving John-Lewis up front as isolated as a man on the moon.
Tom O’Sullivan got forward to support John-Lewis on 18 and send a deflected effort just wide of Benji Buchel’s goal but the excellent MacDonald had a much closer effort on 20 minutes when Hylton danced his way through three weak challenges and rolled the ball back for the former Burton man, who side-footed a yard wide from the edge of the box.
John Lundstram was seeing plenty of the ball in midfield and triggering some first-rate movement all around him, where full backs George Baldock and Joe Skarz were able to get forward and provide the width but the rhythm was disrupted on the half hour when Hylton hobbled off with what initially looked like a back problem.
The U’s brought on Callum O’Dowda on the wing and switched top scorer Roofe to a central role, from where he almost found the opener on 38 with a goal-bound effort that came back off the unfortunate Ryan Taylor who was unable to get out of the way.
United had been on top but three minutes from the interval they were behind to a wonderful strike from John-Lewis. A swift break forward and the ball was played up to the former Grimsby striker. There appeared to be little danger but John-Lewis turned to his left and let fly from 30 yards. Buchel went full stretch but the shot was hit with power and perfect aim and flew perfectly inside the right-hand post for a magnificent goal.
Taylor had done plenty of good things in the first half but was unable to continue after the break, replaced by Hoban who had two decent efforts blocked inside the first 15 minutes, one by a defender the other by Sercombe, before an ambitious overhead kick went wide just before the hour.
Newport, unbeaten in five and edging away from danger, sat on the edge of their box and invited the U's to find a way through a nine-man rearguard. Hoban headed into the arms of Day, crosses were repelled or blocked at source and space was at a premium.
However, United have learned the virtue of patience this season and on 72 were level as Hoban hammered home his fourth goal in three games. O'Dowda unlocked the puzzle on the left and fed Roofe, who pulled the ball back for the Irishman on the edge of the six yard box, back to goal. A dip of the shoulder, a twist to his left and the ball was thumped past Day to make it 1-1 and bring the U's level
Now it looked just a question of one point or three as Newport clung on. Day got down well to save from Roofe after another great move, then gratefully clutched a Baldock shot on 78 after the right back had made yet another incisive run across the pitch. Day made a great save from Roofe on 85, but then the away side suddenly found an attacking momentum and the faultless Mullins needed to make two brave blocks in the last five minutes to ensure that the scores remained level.
Newport had dug deep and their hard-earned point keeps their revival under John Sheridan on track. United also stay unbeaten and played well but you can't win every game. Sometimes you have to accept a point and move on.
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Report by Chris Williams, pictures Steve Daniels. Stats by OPTA
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