Oxford United came out on top with a dramatic 3-2 win at Hungerford Town tonight. Trailing to a Harvey Bradbury goal at the break, United struck back through a first goal for the club from scholar Fabio Lopes and a header from their trialist left back. But they were pegged back by the home side, who levelled with four minutes left before Cameron Norman won the game for Oxford with an injury time penalty, his first goal for the club.
United started out with a 4-3-3 shape that saw Cameron Norman, Rob Dickie, Charlie Raglan and the trialist at the back in front of Jack Stevens, and Canice Carroll and Sam Long used in midfield just in front of another trialist,Michael Doughty. That left Armani Little further forward to support Owen James and youth team striker Lopes.
Both Norman and Long, impressive in the midfield role, had early efforts go wide although Hungerford had the two best chances of the first half even before they took the lead. First, Bradbury, son of the watching former Oxford striker Lee, rounded Stevens but was forced wide by the covering Long, who smothered his shot and then when Bradbury again got round Stevens on the half hour Dickie was on the line to clear Richie Whittingham’s under-hit effort.
It was the impressive Bradbury who broke the deadlock after 37 minutes with what turned out to be the simplest of finishes after Stevens and Dickie got in a muddle over who should be clearing a long ball, colliding and presenting the ball to the on-loan Watford striker, who strode forward and passed the ball into an empty net to make it 1-0 at half time.
Other than a Raglan header right on the whistle, United hadn’t really created many chances but they balanced that up early in a much-improved second half when Lopes latched on to Little’s threaded pass and slotted past the keeper for a deserved goal after two impressive performances in the last couple of games.
There were some stern challenges - nothing malicious but fully competitive - which made it a good test for the young U's. Norman stormed forward on 67 and was only stopped by a fantastic challenge inside the box, and then on 76 minutes United were on top when the left back got forward to nod home a good cross from Long after some excellent play by sub Albie Hopkins on the right.
The U's then looked comfortable but on 86 were seemingly undone when sub keeper Manny Agboola came out of his box to try and clear but was deceived by the difficult pitch and missed the ball, allowing another trialist, this time for the home side, to run clear and again roll the ball into the empty net.
However, a minute into injury time, Norman made the last of his lung-testing runs into the box and was upended, picking himself up to slot home from the spot to give United their sixth win in seven games this summer.
Lessons to be learned but once again plenty of positives from a decent game where players got 90 minutes and a chance to try and force their way into Karl Robinson's plans for the weekend, when they welcome Crystal Palace in the first home friendly of the summer.
Stevens (Agboola 65), Norman, Dickie (Berry-Hargreaves 79), Raglan, Trialist, Doughty, Carroll, Long, little, James (Noel-Williams 65), Lopes (Hopkins 65)
Report by Chris Williams, pictures by Kath Faulkner