Pre-season ends with a 3-3 draw at the Hive
Oxford United's pre-season ended with an entertaining 3-3 draw at Barnet this afternoon. Two goals down after 11 minutes, United came back strongly via a brace of goals from striker Wes Thomas but were then 3-2 down after a John Akinde penalty - his second attempt of the day after previously missing from the spot. However United came back one final time to level matters through sub Dan Crowley.
United gave themselves a mountain to climb by conceding twice so early in the game. Barnet were in front after just seven minutes with a neat finish from Curtis Weston, who ghosted in at the far post and side-footed a volleyed a cross home after the United defence had been sucked under the ball by the run of striker Akinde. The big forward then turned goalscorer himself after another decent move allowed him to surge to the end of the area and thump his shot inside the right-hand post with Simon Eastwood helpless.
Undeterred, United continued to move the ball nicely and show plenty of composure, Liam Sercombe firing wide in the tenth minute and Joe Rothwell drifting in from the left wing on several occasions as they tried to get themselves back into the game, although they were relieved to see an Alex Nicholls volley come back off the post after 15 minutes.
Chey Dunkley and Chris Maguire were both ruled out (foot and ankle injuries respectively) but Alex MacDonald made a welcome return after a hip problem and was his usual energetic self on the right wing, whipping in dangerous crosses and hugging the sideline as the U’s spread the play.
The U’s needed a goal before the break and began to get close. Ryan Taylor had a 22-yard effort deflected wide on 20 and Christian Ribeiro got forward from right back to fire into the side-netting on the half hour. On 43 it was the excellent MacDonald who got his side back into it, sending in a superb cross for Thomas to head past keeper Josh Vickers to make it 2-1 at the break.
Thomas then levelled affairs three minutes into the second half with a superb finish. Slipped into the right channel by a clever pass from Ribeiro, Thomas attacked the box and then unleashed a powerful effort that ripped into the net via the stinging fingertips of Vickers.
Playing with more tempo United were well on top but had a big let off when Akinde rolled a penalty wide after he had been fouled just inside the box. However on 65 the powerful striker made amends when Aaron Martin tripped him in the box and Akinde picked himself up, changed his aim to the other side and beat Eastwood from the spot to make it 3-2.
Kane Hemmings and Tyler Roberts were given the final half hour for their first appearances, Roberts sending an effort just over with his first meaningful contribution and Hemmings a constant threat on the shoulder of the last defender. The former Dundee man looks a real threat and with ten minutes to go might so easily have scored on his debut as he latched on to a loose ball in the box, danced round the keeper and was desperately unlucky to see his shot come back off the post from a tight angle. Fortunately for the U's, fellow sub Dan Crowley had kept running and was perfectly placed to tap the rebound home to make it 3-3.
Entertaining to watch, plenty of goals, lots of good play and both managers will have food for thought after this last friendly run-out. There is one last chance to tinker when a United XI travel to Dorking on Tuesday night, but otherwise we are just about there. A week today United will step out at the Kassam Stadium to play League 1 football for the first time in 15 years. Pre-season has been all about settling new faces in, building for the season to come and making sure everything is ready come 3pm next Saturday.
United are ready. Are you?
Eastwood, Ribeiro, Nelson, Martin, Skarz, Rothwell (J Roberts 83), Lundstram, Sercombe (Ruffels 43), MacDonald (T Roberts 63), Thomas (Hemmings 60), Taylor (Crowley 69)