Oxford United started pre-season with a 1-1 draw at Solihull Moors this afternoon. New signing Wes Thomas marked his debut with a goal but a Lewis Hayden equaliser soon after made it honours even in a well-contested friendly.
United gave the full squad a run out barring Callum O’Dowda through illness, with a first-half eleven replaced at the break, other than winger Jonny Giles. New signings Aaron Martin, Christian Ribeiro and Dan Crowley all played the first 45 minutes with Simon Eastwood, Curtis Nelson and Thomas coming on for the second period.
Solihull, newly promoted to the National League, had prepared a lush playing surface where the skills of Crowley stood out in the opening exchanges. The Arsenal loanee is extremely comfortable on the ball, full of feints and tricks but also working hard to link midfield and front man Ryan Taylor, himself making his return after injury ruined the second half of last season.
Wide men Giles and George Jeacock also caught the eye with their pace and willingness to take on the full back, with Giles drifting a shot just over the bar after 20 minutes and both sides playing some neat passing football and getting a decent work-out.
Goalscoring chances were few and far apart, as so often in pre-season, Taylor’s effort in the 38th minute the best of them as he seized on a loose ball after Jeacock had closed down keeper Nathan Vaughan but he couldn’t force the ball past the keeper. Josh Ruffels drilled in a low shot two minutes into the second half, fellow sub James Roberts had an effort blocked a minute later, and the U's had looked the more likely side to find the breakthrough.
The opener came on 53 minutes when Alex MacDonald found an excellent through pass for Thomas to steal in behind and clip a delightful effort past sub keeper Danny Lewis for his first goal for the club. The lively Thomas almost made it two when he couldn't quite turn a MacDonald free kick inside the post just after the hour and the impressive Miles Welch-Hayes then sent a shot similarly close after joining the attack from left-back.
The U's had made most of the running but the Moors had played some nice stuff themselves and on 67 minutes got themselves back on level terms when Lewis Hayden (not last season's youth team captain of the same name) tried a cross from the left and was delighted to see it skew up and over the stranded Eastwood to make it 1-1.
United had further chances: James Roberts miscued a Sam Long cross on 72, Thomas flicked another MacDonald cross over the top on 76 and most of the play was in the Moors half, but the intensity and timing will build game by game over the next few weeks. Results are largely immaterial in the first week of July of course but this was a useful start that saw all 21 players used gain fitness and push their chances of a start when the serious business starts in a month's time.
On to Spain...
Buchel, Ribeiro,Skarz, Lundstram, Cundy, Martin, Jeacock, Ashby, Taylor, Crowley, Giles
Eastwood, Long, Nelson, Dunkley, Welch-Hayes, MacDonald, Sercombe, Ruffels, Giles, Thomas, Roberts