Oxford United had to come from behind to go through in the FA Youth Cup at Gloucester City this evening. Trailing 1-0 at the break United needed a late goal from Albie Hopkins to force the game in to injury time, where Owen James sent them through to the second round with a clinical strike.
The U’s dominated the early stages and had the best early chances with skipper James Cowan and striker James drilling low efforts wide of the mark in the first 15 minutes, although it took an excellent tackle from the impressive Dan Carr to stop Gloucester getting a sight of goal after 25 minutes.
With Cowan and Aaron Heap spreading the play well and Rex Mannings lively in supporting front man James the young U’s were inventive and had the bulk of the possession but fell behind on the stroke of half time from a classic counter attack. United’s corner was cleared and Gloucester sprinted forward before working the ball from right to left for left-back Logan Roach to smash home a magnificent effort from the edge of the box to make it 1-0 at the break.
That fired United up and the opening minutes of the second half saw a corner cleared off the line and a James effort blocked as they raised the intensity to try and get back into the game. James then smashed a fine effort against the left hand post with the keeper stranded, Mannings saw a low drive deflected wide for a corner and the U’s were the side asking all the questions.
That eventually paid as the home side dropped deeper and deeper, hoping to hit United on the break but inviting pressure. With fifteen minutes to go they were finally breached when Hopkins touched the ball out of his feet and drilled the ball goalwards from 15 yards. The keeper got a glove to it but could only palm it inside the left hand post to give United a deserved equaliser.
It was classic cup tie football now with Heap driving his side forward and James flashing a last minute free kick just past the post before we went in to extra time.
Gloucester had been heroic in defence but were visibly tiring and just two minutes into extra time the comeback was complete as James spun on the edge of the box before burying a fierce left-footed effort past the keeper from the edge of the box to make it 2-1 to the U's.
The outstanding James almost killed the tie off with the last kick of the first half of extra time only for his free kick to ping into the Gloucestershie gloom behind the goal as we headed for the final chapter of a hugely enjoyable game.
Gloucester gave it everything they had but United had been brave when they needed to be, sensible when applicable, and full value for the win. They go on to face Bristol Rovers at home in the next round. We can only hope it's as good a game as this one.
Evans, Carr, Baker, Heap, Hopkins, Cowan, Mannings (Sampford 100) , Lofthouse (Spasov 73), Crooks, McCreadie (Chilcott 60), James
Subs: Rogers, Lapworth
Report by Chris Williams