Oxford United are back. Dramatic late goals from Todd Kane and Ryan Ledson gave them a superb 3-2 win. Goals from Ahmed Kashi and Josh Magennis looked to have given Charlton victory despite a James Henry equaliser but on-loan Chelsea man Kane and midfielder Ledson sealed the fight back.
United made three scheduled changes to the line-up: Ashley Smith-Brown and Todd Kane making debuts and Joe Rothwell back after injury but they were forced into a further change before kick-off when Wes Thomas was injured in the warm up and Jon Obika stepped up from the bench. It turned out to be a mere cameo for the forward, back at a ground where he previously enjoyed two loan spells.
Simon Eastwood, happily still Oxford's number 1, made a good save from Tariqe Fosu in the eighth minute and Mark Marshall headed a good chance wide after 13 before Obika brought the game to life with a magnificent turn and half volley from 25 yards out that smashed against the bar with home keeper Ben Amos watching, wishing and hoping as it sailed over him.
Some stout defending from John Mousinho and Aaron Martin allowed Kane and Smith-Brown to join the attack, where Obika was holding the ball and bringing others into play but the replacement forward needed to be replaced himself after hobbling off after half an hour to force United into another change; Malachi Napa came on to play up front, offering rather different qualities to Obika and forcing the U's to play slightly differently in attack.
United were mobile and bright; Kane in particular showed a willingness to get forward although it took a good save from Eastwood again early in the second half to keep it at 0-0 when Magennis let fly from a tight angle.
If you'll excuse the pun, both sides were athletic and trying to play decent football but they were cancelling each other out through equally determined defending and unbelievable work rate in midfield. The excellent Rothwell flashed a shot over the bar on 57 minutes, Napa had a shot saved by Amos, and then on 63 minutes the stalemate was broken.
For once the defence didn't clear their lines and two crucial 50/50 challenges broke the way of the Addicks. Ahmed Kashi was the beneficiary, picking up the ball on the edge of the area and taking his time before drilling it past the helpless Eastwood to make it 1-0.
United, hampered by the injuries to their two recognised strikers, stuck to their guns and continued to work and press and on 76 minutes their spirit and commitment paid off. Napa played his part, showing plenty of composure before flicking the ball to his left. Sub Henry used an overlap on his left to draw men away then calmly passed the ball past Amos to make it 1-1 and spark scenes among the 1,300 celebrating away fans.
What needed to happen next was a little period where people drew breath and made sure that, having got back into the game, nothing silly happened. Instead with their very next attack the home side were back in front. There seemed little danger as the ball rolled towards touch but Kane, in trying to let the ball run, allowed Dasilva's short sprint to rob him and he fizzed the ball across for Magennis to joyfully bundle the ball home from close range.
Back came the Yellows and they were inches from another equaliser when Kane crossed and Isaac Buckley-Ricketts drove the ball against the foot of the left-hand post with the flying Amos stranded again.
Players injured in the warm up? Three previous defeats? No Manager? So defeat was inevitable, right? Don't you believe it. This side, this club, does not roll over and with two minutes to go they were level. Sub Ricardinho crossed, Buckley-Ricketts drew men away and Kane smashed the ball into the roof of the net to mark a great debut with a terrific goal.
Spirit, determination and a young hungry side refusing to accept that the odds were against them. Time running out. Ball on the edge of the box. Ledson. Right foot. 3-2 and an amazing victory: the highlight of the season so far.
Terrific stuff. Welcome back Oxford United. Welcome back.
Report by Chris Williams, pictures by Darrell Fisher, stats by OPTA
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