Golden Graham double not enough as U's go out
Oxford United were beaten on penalties by Cheltenham Town on Saturday to go out of the Football League Youth Alliance League Cup.
Trailing 2-0 after half an hour the U’s roared back to level at 2-2 thanks to two goals from Jordan Graham*, before losing in the shoot-out.
Leon Blackmore-Such told us:
“We played them away from home a couple of weeks ago and lost 3-1 but we were the better team that day and so we went into this game full of optimism.
“We had a lot of possession at the start but our movement and energy weren’t quite as high as they have been recently. We conceded from a free header at the back post from a set piece, maybe the result of not concentrating. We have some good players and like to play but sometimes our decision making needs to be better on when to do that. In this game we got caught on the ball about half an hour in, and they go through and make it 2-0.
“We got a lifeline just before half time when Kieran Diaz-Benitez put a ball over the top and Jordan Graham brought it down superbly. Their keeper had gambled because he didn’t think Jordan would be able to deal with the ball, and was made to pay when he lobbed the ball over him to make it 2-1 at the break.
“That gave us a bit of impetus and we changed things around a little bit at half time. They were dropping deep and we weren’t able to get George Jeacock in behind with his pace so we tweaked it a bit and got Shandon Baptiste, Jordan and Luke Hastings just behind George in a different shape to take advantage of the space. They did that well, and Canice Carroll came on at half time and did well at the back as well.
“We dominated the whole 45 minutes. We got a penalty and even when the keeper saved it Jordan followed up and converted to make it 2-2 from the rebound.
“It was a great cup tie and we looked like we would go on and win it at that stage but Kieran had already had a yellow card and went in for a challenge that earned him another, so we were down to ten men for the last ten minutes. We were very resilient in that period and had a couple of chances of our own to win it still. We didn’t convert them and instead went straight to penalties.
“People stepped up and looked confident but their keeper saved a couple. Jack Stevens had played well and saved a couple of theirs but we ended up losing 3-2 on penalties.
“We had had a real go and came back very strongly. The game wasn’t lost at the penalty stage really, it was probably in the first half hour and going 2-0 down. Great character to come back and get back into the game but we can’t let sides get two goals ahead when we are so much on top.”
Stevens, Diaz-Benitez, McCormack, Rickett, Bryan (Carroll 46), Hayden, Humphries, Baptiste (Tuttle 80), Napa (Hastings 46), Graham, Jeacock