Oxford United came from behind for the second round in a row to go through to the third round of the FA Youth Cup tonight with a 3-1 win over Bristol Rovers at Court Place Farm. Trailing to an early penalty, United hit back through goals from Owen James, Dan Carr and Jack Stevens to book a place against either Dagenham and Redbridge or Clanfield 85 in the next round.
United started very brightly and James forced a save out of the keeper after just 20 seconds but were behind after eight minutes when right back Carr caught James Spruce who picked himself up to put Rovers ahead from the spot. Having beaten the same side 4-0 on Saturday in the league it took the U’s a little time to settle after that opener and keeper Max Evans needed to make a smart save after 22 minutes to keep it at 1-0.
The young U’s stuck to their guns though with Albie Hopkins looking to take men on down the flank and skipper James Cowan spraying the ball around nicely and on 36 minutes were level when a wicked cross from Carr was picked up by Hopkins whose initial shot was saved but only pushed out as far as James who had the simplest of tasks to pass the ball into the unguarded net.
James almost gave his side the lead two minutes later with a left-footed drive from the edge of the box that Liam Armstrong tipped over the bar but 1-1 at half time was probably fair on both sides.
United then stepped up the pace and just after the hour were ahead when Stevens flicked a clever pass into space behind the static Rovers back line and right-back Carr atoned for the earlier penalty by taking the ball on at pace and thumping it merrily past the exposed Armstrong to give United the lead for the first time in the tie.
Rovers gave it everything they had and it was proper cup football as the game went end to end with sub Stevens bending a good effort just wide after 82 minutes and fellow sub Kyran Lofthouse having a shot smothered at the near post moments later as the U's looked to kill the game off.
James should have done so but planted an 85th minute cut back on to the ring road rather than the back of the net, but it mattered little when in the last minute Stevens was granted the freedom of the area to stroke the ball home from close range and send his team through.
Another entertaining game, high on energy and effort. A great effort from all concerned.
Evans, Carr, Hopkins, McCreadie, Chilcott, Crooks (Stevens 57), Cowan, Heap, Hopkins, Mannings (Lofthouse 46), James (Spasov 90)
Subs: Sampford, Lapworth
Report by Chris Williams, pictures by Steve Daniels