Oxford United 1 Charlton Athletic 1
Oxford United kept their unbeaten run going with a 1-1 draw against Charlton Athletic this afternoon. Trailing to a Johnnie Jackson penalty, the U's made it four games without defeat when Chris Maguire swept home an equaliser to leave it honours even in an entertaining encounter.
The pace was set early on as Charlton went at the United defence from the off, although it was Chey Dunkley who almost found the opening goal after four minutes, out-muscling a defender and powering a Maguire cross at goal only for Declan Rudd to make an outstanding save, plunging to his left.
It was an excellent tactical footballing encounter, both teams spraying passes around, making intelligent runs and trying to manoeuvre the other team out of position. United had kept three clean sheets in a row and Charlie Raglan showed that they were determined to carry that on with a superb tackle on nine minutes to stop the dangerous Ademola Lookman in full flight.
Marvin Johnson fired an effort just the wrong side of the post after 20 minutes as the game continued to flow nicely; Lookman and Sercombe exchanged shots from the edge of the box in the 24th minute and Johnson again tested Rudd with a low effort on 37.
Just like every game this season (bar one) it was extremely close all over the park. Simon Eastwood made his customary outstanding save on 41 as Lookman again got in behind the defence but couldn’t lift the ball over the advancing keeper, but 0-0 at half time was probably fair on both sides, with two well-organised defences doing their jobs very well.
Such tight games can often hinge on a big decision from the referee and on 55 it came in the form of a penalty for the visitors. A long swinging cross towards United's right looked as though Phil Edwards would deal with it in his usual diligent fashion. Unfortunately as he set himself he received a sly nudge that sent him forward and saw his arms come up. Clearly handball, but United were livid that the push hadn't been spotted. Jackson sent Eastwood the wrong way from the spot and the U's were a goal down.
Their response was not to panic and start launching the ball forward but to move the ball, raise the tempo and play their way back into the game. Ten minutes after going behind they were level with a peach of a goal. Johnson made ground on the left and fed sub Kane Hemmings, just on for the hard-working Taylor. With the defence back tracking, Hemmings would have been forgiven for taking a shot himself but instead he waited for the perfect moment to slip the ball to his right. Maguire, outstanding once again, was never going to miss and lashed the ball across Rudd and inside the far post for a typically calm finish to make it 1-1.
An already enthralling game now went up a further notch. Eastwood somehow got his glove to a Josh Magennis header that looked destined for the roof of the net, Hemmings added a bit of urgency and saw two efforts blocked, and both sides went for the win rather than settling for just one point. Injury time brought a red card for Harry Lennon for the visitors as he scythed down man-of-the-match Liam Sercombe but there was hardly time to take the free kick let alone take advantage of the extra man; a little longer might have tipped the balance.
This time last year there were two divisions between these sides, today there was little to choose between them in another ultra-competitive 90 minutes. Both sides have started the season well: United now have eight points from the last 12 and are starting to gather both confidence and momentum. No easy games at this level but the U's look very at home and were full value for this point.
Report by Chris Williams, pictures Steve Daniels, stats by OPTA
Fifty/50 winning number 484002 wins £1,218
See extended highlights and all the reaction in Yellow Player HD