Oxford United’s under 18 side stayed top of the table with a thoroughly entertaining 3-3 draw at home to Portsmouth on Saturday.
Coach Leon Blackmore-Such told us:
“We knew that Portsmouth were a side who score plenty of goals so we were expecting an entertaining, open game but it turned out to be a really great game for the people watching.
After a bit of a slow start we dominated from about 15 minutes but still went in at half time 2-0 down because we conceded in the 40th and 43rd minutes, both from free kicks and both, basically from goalkeeping errors. Those things happen- these are young men learning their game and people make mistakes but you have to learn from then and remember the standards we expect in games.
We had created our own chances as well, the best coming from a training ground free kick which we worked almost to perfection, other than Victor Milton heading it over at the back post!
So we were two goals down but had played well and we said to the lads that this was their chance to go out there and do something spectacular to win the game. They responded brilliantly and were fantastic in the second half. We got back to 2-1 from a Kyran Lofthouse header from a free kick and then Freddie Niblett headed in another set piece and we were back to 2-2.
Can I also mention the work rate of the whole team, with Owen James the perfect illustration of that. He linked up really well with Michael Elechi on the left and for the first goal Owen chased a ball 65 yards that looked a lost cause to everyone except him. He worked so hard for his team and it was that perseverance that got us back in to the game.
Having got to 2-2 we looked like going on to win it but suddenly on a counter attack Portsmouth scored again and it was 3-2. And then to make things even harder Freddie Niblett picked up a second yellow card so we were a goal down and a man light. Maybe we should have crumbled and accepted it wasn’t going to be our day but instead the lads were absolutely relentless and determined to get something out of the game. We went for it and with about five minutes to go Michael Elechi crossed, Slavi Spasov met it with a header and it went under the keeper to make it 3-3.
Maybe Chris and I are young coaches and might have to accept that a point in those circumstances is decent but instead we went for it and tried to win it, but just couldn’t find another goal.
Afterwards I told the boys three things. Firstly to learn from our mistakes. Secondly I would happily pay to watch them because they are a brilliantly entertaining team to watch and thirdly to be very proud of the way they played in that second half where they showed so much character.
We are still at the top of the table and now we have the FA Youth Cup game at Hemel Hempstead on Wednesday night to look forward to. That’s a big competition for all under 18 sides and it would be fantastic to get a win and have a run in the cup this season.”
Evans, Lofthouse, Niblett, Milton, Jones, Elechi, Cowan (Chambers-Parillion 85), McCreadie, Crooks, Spasov, James