Oxford United under-23s took the three points in their first-ever group stage game of the Premier League Cup against last season's finalists Swansea City, thanks to a 10th-minute goal from winger Rev James. The game, played at Thame United's ASM Stadium, was hard-fought but Oxford came out on top.
There were two players with first-team experience in the defence, with Cameron Norman at right back and Charlie Raglan in the centre, alongside Matt Berry-Hargreaves, while Matt Taylor played in the other full-back position. Rev James and Owen James started on the right and left wings respectively, with skipper Aaron Heap partnering Aaron McCreadie in the centre of midfield, feeding Dejon Noel-Williams and Albie Hopkins as the front two.
The game opened with Oxford on top and after just four minutes Charlie Raglan was on the end of Albie Hopkins’ corner to power the ball over the Swansea bar.
United took the lead in just the tenth minute. Owen James outpaced Tyler Reid and clipped in a cross that Swansea keeper Gregor Zabret was unable to keep hold of. The ball fell behind the waiting Noel-Williams but dropped kindly for Rev James, who gratefully prodded it over the line to give the U’s an early lead.
Although Swansea rallied after going a goal down, it was Oxford who looked likelier to extend their lead with swift counter attacks, notably through Rev James and Heap. The visitors grew into the game as the half went on, passing the ball neatly and winning a succession of corners as United defended doggedly, losing Norman to injury five minutes before the break.
The second half continued as the first had ended, with Swansea doing most of the attacking play, using the flanks to good effect, and the United defence holding firm, relieved by the occasional counter attack. One such break had Rev James squaring the ball to Hopkins with the goal at his mercy but Aaron Lewis got in a priceless block to prevent a certain goal.
The energetic Heap saw yellow for one particularly over-enthusiastic tackle on 72 but that was a rare aberration as the United defence martialled the Swans attack superbly. Ten minutes later Oxford had a big penalty claim turned down as Noel-Williams looked to have been bundled over from Owen James' free kick, and with three minutes remaining Stevens pulled off a good save to keep out a Swansea header.
United saw the game out and at the end took the deserved applause from the approximately 250 fans in Thame's ASM Stadium.
United: Stevens, Norman (Johnson Fikula 40), Taylor, Berry-Hargreaves, Raglan, Heap, R James, McCreadie, Noel-Williams (Taverner 86), Hopkins (Spasov 75), O James
Unused subs: Agboola, Cowan
Report: Martin Brodetsky