Gavin Whyte scored a spectacular goal to earn Oxford United a point and make it four games unbeaten with a 1-1 draw at the Valley tonight. Trailing to a Lyle Taylor penalty the U's roared back in the second half with the Northern Ireland winger capping the comeback with a fierce equaliser to keep United's run going.
There were two changes for the U’s with Ricky Holmes making a surprise return to face his former club and Cameron Brannagan coming back in to the side after suspension. There was also a slight change of shape to allow Marcus Browne to have a little more freedom alongside Jamie Mackie in a two man front line ahead of a midfield diamond.
The first 20 minutes were cagey with the highlight a superb tackle by the excellent Curtis Nelson who chased Tariqe Fosu thirty yards before sliding in to take the ball off his toe just as he prepared to shoot. Neither side had tested the keeper but then half way through the half Ben Reeves nicked the ball past birthday boy Josh Ruffels on the right and chased it in to the box. Simon Eastwood came to meet him and at one stage looked like winning the race but Reeves got there just ahead of him, touched the ball past him and was brought crashing down. Ref Dean Whitestone pointed to the spot and Taylor blasted the penalty straight down the middle to make it 1-0.
United then had to defend stoutly as the Addicks went for a second goal, although Eastwood was largely untroubled while the back four closed ranks. There was a half chance when James Henry burst clear and crossed for Brannagan whose shot was blocked, Holmes bent a right-footed effort wide after 44 minutes, and United had hung in there after conceding to stay in the game at the break.
There was a burst of energy after the break with Browne bursting into the box but only able to force a corner, and the same player having a shot saved from the resulting passage of play, although home keeper Jed Steer was unruffled in either incident. United were stacking up yellow card though and Rob Dickie was subbed shortly after he completed the full house of all the defence being booked, possibly wise as tempers started to fray.
The introduction of Whyte as a sub just after the hour added a different sort of threat with his direct running at defenders meaning Charlton had to drop that little bit deeper to compensate. However they would have had to drop back to the Thames to stop Whyte's goal. There was a collision in the build up when Holmes and Josh Cullen collided so the Charlton man was down as United advanced. Cameron Brannagan was the man to drive his side forward and slide to ball to his right and Whyte took a touch into the box then absolutely drilled it across the keeper for a Goal of the Season contender. Some player this lad.
The away fans went mad, familiar scenes at the Valley where United have enjoyed their last couple of visits, and their delight was almost doubled when Whyte escaped in a similar place five minutes later but this time saw his low effort blocked by Chris Solly. Mackie threw himself at a terrific ball into the six yard box on 83 minutes as United went for the win. There were thrills and spills at both ends, but no late, late drama this time and a point apiece after an enthralling encounter.
Character and spirit from United who now move on to celebrate their 125th Anniversary at home to Shrewsbury Town on Saturday.
See you there.
Report by Chris Williams, stats by OPTA. See all the reaction in iFollow