The new Oxford United U23 squad kicked off their pre-season fixture schedule with a behind closed doors friendly against AFC Telford United last night.
Chris Allen's side included six Academy graduates alongside a number of new signings and trialists and matched up well against their Conference North opponents in a tight game that finished 1-1.
Playing at Lilleshall High Performance Centre, Telford had the better of the earlier exchanges and despite also featuring a number of trialists in their line up looked more fluent than their young Oxford opponents.
AFC Telford, managed by former Shrewsbury defender Gavin Cowan, took the lead midway through the first half with a well taken finish from the corner of the box across Manny Agboola in the Oxford goal but the U's didn't allow the setback to overly affect them and slowly grew into the game. Having completed a number of double sessions over the preceding days Oxford could have been forgiven for allowing fatigue to affect them but it was credit to the players on show that they continued to press their more senior opponents all over the pitch.
19-year-old Centre Forward Dejon Noel-Williams, playing as the central point of a front three, created a good chance for himself on 24 minutes only to see his left foot snapshot narrowly fly past the post and Oxford started the better of the two sides in the second half with the introduction of new striker Brandon Taverner and young midfielder Aaron Heap both making a positive impact.
Taverner, one of three new signings into the squad for this season brought the U's level with 15 minutes to go, executing a neat lobbed finish over the advancing Telford keeper after some positive pressing from one of the four trialists in the Oxford ranks.
Telford continued to provide a stern test for the inexperienced Oxford backline who will have gained much from being tested by a Telford squad that finished mid-table in England's sixth tier last season. With both teams tiring, Oxford were perhaps unfortunate not to be awarded a late penalty when a neat through pass saw one of the trialists brought down from behind by the Telford Centre Half. 1-1 was however a fair result and both sides will have gained much from a game of this type early in their respective pre-season campaigns.
The young Yellows have one final double training day at Lilleshall before returning to continue their pre-season preparations back in Oxfordshire next week.