Around 800 fans saw Oxford United and Middlesbrough draw 0-0 at the Ferreiras Stadium in Albufeira tonight. The travelling Yellow Army made a great spectacle in the Portuguese sun but saw defences on top despite plenty of attacking intent from both sides.
The starting eleven saw a welcome return for Aaron Martin after an achilles injury and a first start for Jon Obika. James Henry was in the stands to watch after he flew in to join the touring party this afternoon and is expected to play on Saturday when the U’s play Hull City in the same stadium.
The first half in particular was open attractive football from both sides with Traore wasting the best cance for Boro when he nodded over Simon Eastwood but inexplicably rolled the ball wide of the open net. Otherwise the returning Martin and the imperious Curtis Nelson kept the Championship side’s forwards at bay, helped by full backs Christian Ribeiro and Marvin Johnson.
Youngster Malachi Napa was the one to catch the eye once again in the opening 45 minutes, never afraid to take his man on and playing with purpose and freedom on the wing. That was only made possible by the hard work of fellow winger Joe Rothwell and the ever industrious Ryan Ledson and John Lundstram in midfield.
Obika played well, as did his strike partner Kane Hemmings, before James Roberts came on for the former at half time, the first of eight second half changes. Simon Eastwood made an excellent save from Fry on 56 as Boro started to create chances but United were more than a match for them before the game itself was disrupted by the changes- perfectly understandable and logical use of the whole squad.
Rothwell fired in a low effort with 13 minutes remaining, Rob Hall twisted his way through for a similar effort a minute later but Boro had created half chances as well and a draw was probably a fair result (if results matter at this stage)
What really matters is that this was an excellent work out; bright, slick football, and hundreds of fans enjoying the sunshine. Another terrific pre-season occasion - can't wait for Hull City: same place same time on Saturday.
Eastwood (Shearer 60), Ribeiro (Raglan 60), Nelson, Martin (Kelleher 60), Johnson (Carroll 60), Napa (Hall 60), Lundstram (Ruffels 60), Ledson (Baptiste 60), Rothwell, Obika (Roberts 46), Hemmings
Report by Chris Williams, pictures Simon Hathaway.