Oxford United ended their home campaign with a draw this afternoon as goals from Marcus Browne and James Henry earned them a 2-2 draw with play-off contenders Doncaster Rovers.
With a strong wind at their backs and a play-off place at stake, Rovers were always likely to start fast and it took them just seven minutes to find the opener. It came from the head of top scorer Marquis, who powered the ball beyond the grasp of Simon Eastwood from ten yards out to give his side the perfect start.
Would United crumble? How very dare you doubt them. Five minutes later and Browne, who had already terrorised the visiting defence with his power and pace, got his team back on level terms with a peach of a goal. Turning his man, Browne played a one-two with the quick-thinking Jerome Sinclair and then took the right option: skipper James Henry was totally unmarked in the centre of the goal but Browne opted to drill the ball through the legs of keeper Marko Marosi for a neat nutmeg of an equaliser. Marquis 1 Marcus 1.
United deserved that goal and the quick feet of Browne, Sinclair and Whyte and the clever prompting of Henry were a pleasure to watch at times. Sinclair’s snap shot on 27 was comfortable for Marosi, although the same player might have done better a minute later than hit the keeper, with Henry standing in splendid isolation in the middle of the goal again and he almost found a second goal in the last minute of the first half with a flicked header that went straight into the keeper’s gloves.
At the other end, Nico Jones looked very assured alongside the immovable Curtis Nelson and handled Marquis superbly with the home fans taking immediately to the 17-year-old and singing his name in praise. Marquis did have a shot saved by Eastwood after 37 minutes but the U’s had coped pretty well with the conditions and then made the most of the wind in the second half as the game went ridiculously open as Rovers chased the positive result they needed.
Sinclair had already forced the ball home from an offside position before Henry made it 2-1. Whyte, fast enough without a gale force wind in his sails, paved the way, Henry’s initial shot was saved but United’s Golden Boot winner for the second season in a row was swiftly on to the rebound to poke the ball home and give his side the lead.
Every United game in the last three months has been high on entertainment value and this was no different.
Back came the visitors. An hour gone and United wasted another chance to seal the win when Henry was denied by the keeper, with Whyte free to his right. Doncaster immediately broke, left-back Danny Andrew whipped in a cross and it bounced up, struck Jones and trundled over the line for an unfortunate own-goal that made it 2-2.
The game was more basketball than football after that, with the teams taking turns at attack and defence and Whyte running riot, Clash style, down the right and Hanson and Brannagan a blur of constant motion as they went from box to box.
There was time for one last ovation as Rob Hall made his return from injury - a reward for months of hard work - but no last minute drama and so one last draw. United have made their point many times in 2019 and this result once again showed what they can do against the best teams in the division.
One last chance to show that: at potential champions Luton next Saturday.
Report by Chris Williams, pictures by Steve Daniels and Tom Melville, stats by OPTA