Oxford United’s fledgling under 23s side took another step forward on Saturday going up against Premier League opposition for the first time as Huddersfield Town made the long journey down from West Yorkshire.
Playing just 72 hours after securing a hard fought Cup win away at Southend, the young U’s side battled hard once again for a well deserved draw against a strong Huddersfield outfit at Abingdon United’s Northcourt Road ground.
Huddersfield, playing in their iconic blue and white stripes, started the brighter of the two sides with powerful young striker Micah Obiero and pacey wide man Aaron Roue both showing plenty of early promise.
Oxford grew into the game as the half progressed with Aaron Heap once again showing why he received his first call up to the Northern Ireland U19s side this week with another aggressive showing in the middle of the park. Oxford’s first real chance of the game came on 22 minutes when winger Rev James darted between the Huddersfield Centre Backs where he was picked out from left back by the impressive Matt Taylor but the 18-year-old wide man was unable to find a finish.
Experienced Centre Back Charlie Raglan, anchoring a back four that stood up well to a talented Huddersfield attack, showed plenty of composure throughout and the young Oxford side that included 16-year-olds Slavi Spasov and Fabio Lopes deserved to go in at half time level with their Premier League opponents.
The start of the second half saw Oxford begin to threaten the Huddersfield back four with increasing frequency and they should have opened their account on 48 minutes when midfielder Tsun Dai drove at the heart of the back four only to pull his shot wide of the upright from 16 yards out.
Oxford made their first change of the game on 65 minutes with second year scholar James Cowan replacing Brandon Taverner, slotting in alongside Heap allowing Dai to play in his more familiar number 10 position. Cowan, who along with centre forward Spasov, had earned his call up to Chris Allen’s squad after a number of strong showing for the U18s at the start of the season, didn’t look out of place and it was the home side that finished the stronger of the two sides.
Huddersfield, playing in a very similar style to their first team with plenty of energy and clever interplay, were unable to break down a resolute Oxford side and the home side should have won the game on 82 minutes when an excellent driving run from James saw him play in Dai with a beautifully weighted pass only for the young midfielder to hit the post with his right-footed effort from 10 yards out.
With no further chances for either side Oxford secured a well-deserved draqw against their Premier League opponents and can be quietly satisfied with a solid week’s work that sees them maintain their undefeated start to the competitive phase of their season.
Stephens, Berry-Hargreaves ©, Raglan, Johnson-Fikula, Taylor, Heap, Dia, Lopes, Spasov, R. James, Taverner (65 Cowan).
Unused Subs – Clayton, Lofthouse, Niblett