A first half goal from Cameron Brannagan earned Oxford United a win in their opening pre-season game against Portmarnock this evening at Tolka Park.
Karl Robinson fielded different sides in each half, as promised, with only Malachi Napa and new signing Armani Little playing the full 90 minutes.
There were early efforts from the edge of the box from midfield pairing Josh Ruffels and Brannagan before the latter opened the scoring after 22 minutes with a calm finish from a low cross from the hard-working Jon Obika.
Right back Tony McMahon was perhaps the pick of the first half performances, joining the attack well and delivering a series of dangerous balls into the box as well as forming a lively looking partnership with winger Malachi Napa down that flank. He was pushed all the way by Bannagan though, who dominated the midfield throughout the first 45 minutes.
Youngster Owen James, who only arrived to join the squad this afternoon, showed plenty of promise and enthusiasm with two early efforts in the second half but the home side deserve great credit for the way they dug in and fought for everything, frustrating the U's who never really got sight of goal in the second half, despite plenty of hard work. Portmarnock might even have drawn the game when a late break gave them an opportunity and then led to a scramble that saw the ball cleared off the line to preserve Simon Eastwood/Scott Shearer's shared clean sheet.
All of the new boys showed flashes of what they can do - Cameron Norman a natural athlete and Luke Garbutt distributing the ball with real class, but there wasn't quite the fluency and passion that will surely come during the season itself.
Fear not, pre-season teaches you very little in the long run and this was a win, a chance for everyone to get at least 45 minutes, and a solid enough start. The stars were once again the fans: over 500 there to follow the U's and a terrific sight in the bright sunshine.
We move on to Longford tomorrow night. See you there.
Eastwood, McMahon, Dickie, Raglan, Long, Ruffels, Brannagan, Baptiste, Napa, Little, Obika
Shearer, Norman, Nelson, Mousinho, Garbutt, Carroll, Carruthers, Little, Henry, Napa, James
Report by Chris Williams, pictures by Simon Hathaway