Oxford United continue to gather pace in pre-season with another very professional victory away at Aldershot Town. Goals from Curtis Nelson, Jon Obika and James Henry eased the U's past Gary Waddock's National League promotion hopefuls with a 3-0 win at the EBB Stadium
There were perhaps the first signs of Karl Robinson’s thinking for his starting eleven against Barnsley on 4th August, with Tony McMahon, Nelson, John Mousinho and Luke Garbutt looking a very strong back four and Cameron Brannagan and Josh Ruffels providing a solid base for Samir Carruthers, Henry and Malachi Napa to join front man Obika.
It was Obika who had the first two chances, forcing Aldershot keeper Trialist A into two decent saves, without namesakes Trialists B, C and D being much help in front of him. Henry smacked a loose ball into the empty stand from 30 yards out on 35 and then couldn’t convert a rebound after Obika got in front of his man on 37, his flick from a Garbutt cross at the near post being parried away.
It was left to the two central defenders to open the scoring. It came from an excellent delivery from McMahon (get used to that) to which Mousinho got up well to head goalwards and force the keeper to make a good save in pushing the ball on to the bar. The admirable Nelson was on hand to force the loose ball home and make it 1-0.
Seconds later and that became a two-goal lead when Obika made it six goals in four games. Aldershot maybe should have cleared when Nelson headed forward but Obika quickly closed down the trialist keeper and then bravely challenged him to force the ball home from six yards out and double United’s advantage.
There were opportunities in the second half to pull further ahead. The excellent Carruthers smashed one effort against the post, Ruffels somehow missed with a header from six yards out after another excellent set piece from the U’s and McMahon planted another decent opening well over the bar as United dominated against the hosts, who by then had introduced Trialists E and F into the action as well.
Obika nodded another McMahon cross into the arms of the keeper on 62 before Henry made it 3-0 to wrap up a fifth win in six games. Carruthers started it; Brannagan, who knits so much of United's play together, curled in a delightful cross and Henry nodded downwards with enough power to get the ball past the trialist keeper and over the line for a well-worked third goal.
The Shots will do well this season and might have pulled a goal back when Luke Wanadio headed a good chance over in the 80th minute, at which stage there was also the welcome sight of Rob Hall returning to action for the U's, replacing Malachi Napa for his first appearance of the summer.
Hall's return - almost capped with a goal from 25 yards with his first touch - was another positive on a night that saw the other ten players get 90 minutes for the first time. McMahon smacked an 89th minute free kick against the base of the post but no matter. A win, a ckean sheet, plenty of game time and a growing understanding among a very talented group of players. Throw in another couple of new faces and United look in very good shape indeed...
Eastwood, McMahon, Nelson, Mousinho, Garbutt, Ruffels, Brannagan, Carruthers, Henry, Napa (Hall 80), Obika
Subs unused: Stevens, Little, James
Report by Chris Williams, pictures Kath Faulkner