Portsmouth 0 Oxford United 1
Jordan Bowery had a debut to remember as his first goal for Oxford United gave them a massive three points at Fratton Park this afternoon. Bowery, signed yesterday after being released by Rotherham, fired home a second-half goal to give the U's a 1-0 win in a great advertisement for League 2 football in front of a packed house.
There is no finer ground in League 2 than Fratton when it’s full and the game opened at a million miles an hour as the players responded to terrific backing from both sets of supporters in a crowd of over 17,000. The U’s definitely shaded the opening exchanges, with the recalled Danny Hylton and Callum O’Dowda settling quickly back into the rhythm and Kemar Roofe heading an early Alex MacDonald cross over the bar.
George Baldock fired a 14th-minute effort into the side netting and debutant home keeper Ryan Fulton needed to be sharply off his line, and time his challenge perfectly, to stop the charging Hylton after 16. Johnny Mullins met another MacDonald corner well on 17 but headed over, but there was a let off on 19 when Jake Wright needed to react quickly to clear a Marc McNulty shot off the line.
It was fantastic, breathless stuff to watch as the game ebbed and flowed from end to end with Portsmouth starting to exert more pressure in the second quarter of the game. There were still openings for United: both Roofe and Hylton refused chances to pull the trigger when inside the area – before a suspiciously offside-looking Sercombe flashed a shot across goal on 39.
It had been an enthralling first 45 minutes and 0-0 was probably fair at the break, with the shot off the line the closest we had come to a breakthrough.
United should have been in front after just four minutes of the second period though. Hylton once more raced clear and this time Fulton was far less assured with his timing. He brought Hylton down and ref Neil Swarbrick had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. Sercombe drilled his penalty hard and true but Fulton saved well and then made an even better save to somehow regain his feet and block Sercombe’s follow up. A debut to remember for the 19-year-old keeper, although Bowery was soon to steal the spotlight.
United didn't let that moment affect their momentum, while lesser sides might have gone into their shell. The excellent Mullins and Wright needed to be at their best as Portsmouth started to apply pressure but half way through the half new signing Bowery was given his debut to try and lead the line and find a goal. It was his strike partner Danny Hylton who went closest initially with a flicked header from a free kick that flashed just wide of the far post, but it wasn't long until Bowery grabbed the headlines
The former Villa man, fast and direct, dragged a shot wide on 71 and then five minutes later scored a fine goal to give the U's the win. Credit to Wright who carried the ball out of defence and then clipped a superbly weighted ball over the top of the Pompey back line. Bowery was on to it in a flash and from the right edge of the penalty box his fluorescent pink boots fired the ball past the despairing Fulton and just inside the left-hand post to make it 1-0. Not a bad impact on your debut!
It had been close and very evenly contested but Sam Slocombe hadn't truly had a shot to save until he gratefully fell on an Adam McGurk header on 90 minutes to just about seal the win. There were anxious moments as crosses and corners flew across the Oxford box and Pompey buzzed around in front of the defence but the U's are made of stern stuff this season and once again had the edge in a close game.
Brilliant result, brilliant support and United march on. See you next week for the FA Cup fourth round at home to Blackburn.
Att: 17, 840
Report by Chris Williams, pictures Darrell Fisher, stats by Opta
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