Oxford United and Brentford played out a thoroughly enjoyable pre-season friendly this evening that ended 4-3 to the visitors. Trailing 2-0, United roared back to make it 3-2 through Marvin Johnson, Kane Hemmings and James Henry, only for the visitors to score two late goals to steal the win and ruin Pep Clotet's first home game.
There was an early blow for the U’s when Simon Eastwood saved well at the feet of Andreas Bjelland as he sneaked in behind the defence, with the keeper having to go off as a result. Replacement Scott Shearer’s first touch was to pick the ball out of the net as the Bees immediately took the lead through a good header from Florian Josefzoon, unmarked 12 yards out to give the Bees the lead.
United rallied and Rob Hall forced Luke Daniels into a good save down to his right after Hall had exchanged passes with Marvin Johnson to create the opportunity but Brentford were impressive and on 31 were 2-0 up when Lasse Vibe ghosted into the box to calmly sidefoot a Henrik Daalsgard cross past the exposed Shearer.
United might have crumbled but instead they stuck to their guns and kept playing their football and gradually started to turn the game on its head. On 36 minutes they were back in the game as Wes Thomas got to a Hemmings reverse pass first and was brought down by the gloves of keeper Luke Daniels. Johnson made no mistake from the spot and United were back in the game at 2-1.
There was a let off when Brentford hit both post and covering defender in the 51st minute but then United turned the game around with two quick goals to make it 3-2. First the elusive Hall got to the line and cut the ball back for Hemmings to grab the goal his performance deserved. Then just after the hour Hall again found space on the left to cross and when the ball flew past Hemmings, Henry was sliding in at the back post to steer it into the empty net and make it 3-2.
It seemed an unlikely comeback was on the cards but Brentford had been dangerous and on 76 minutes were level when sub Reece Cole struck a free kick from 25 yards that crashed ito the net off the underside of the bar with Shearer helpless. Three minutes later and it was 3-4 when the ball was cut back and Sergi Canos crashed the ball in from the penalty spot with a wonderful strike.
Results mean little, of course, but United have played three Championship sides in the last eight days in Middlesbrough, Hull and Brentford, and more than held their own in each match. There is a shape and pattern starting to emerge and the watching Clotet will have learnt plenty as he prepares his side for another Championship test on Saturday against Birmingham.
Eastwood, Ribeiro (Carroll 70), Nelson, Martin (Raglan 78), Johnson, Henry (Napa 78), Rothwell (Ruffels 76), Ledson, Hall (Hanley 65), Hemmings (Shaban 61), Thomas
Fifty 50 winning number 537854 wins £120.50
Report by Chris Williams, pictures by Steve Daniels