Oxford United came back to draw 3-3 at home by Coventry City this afternoon in a thoroughly entertaining game between two good footballing sides. Trailing to goals from Zain Westbroke and Matty Godden, United roared back thanks to a superb strike from Jamie Mackie and then a hilarious own goal from Fankaty Dabo, but were then seemingly undone in injury time when Callum O'Hare gave the visitors the lead once again, only for Dabo again to prod home an equaliser in the 94th minute.
The return of Alex Gorrin in midfield meant United started with a 4-2-3-1 shape that allowed James Henry, Ben Woodburn and Anthony Forde to try and support the non-stop efforts of the tireless Mackie up front. However, the Scottish international should really have given his side an early lead when he missed his kick in acres of space right in front of goal after good work from the excellent Chris Cadden after 13 minutes.
United kicked on from that moment and began to dominate, although they didn’t carve out many better scoring opportuities, certainly before the break.
Forde almost found the opener when he stole in at the back post but his header from Henry's cross was tipped over by keeper Marko Marosi and as much as the U’s dominated possession, they still needed to be aware of a swift-breaking Sky Blues side in which Jordy Hiwula was a constant threat down the left.
If United have shown a vulnerability this season it has been to set pieces and ten minutes before the break it was a free kick that proved their downfall. Twenty-five yards out, Westbrooke bent his central effort to the right of the wall and unerringly in to the bottom right corner with Simon Eastwood unable to get across in time. Had Jordan Shipley got more power on a 45th-minute drive from the edge of the box it could have been even worse, but United remained in the game and came out of the traps at full speed in the second half, trying to force the pace.
The problems they faced were perfectly illustrated though in the course of ten second-half seconds in which they were almost level and then fell 2-0 behind.
On the attack and on top, United were buzzing around the Covenrry area and when the ball was headed out to the edge of the box, Woodburn showed terrific technique to volley the dropping ball at pace towards goal. Three inches to the left and United would have been level but instead it smacked the post and Coventry picked it up and sprung forward with deadly intent.
Horribly exposed, the U’s tried to block the holes but there were just too many and when Fankaty Dabo dinked the ball across, Godden had sprinted the length of the pitch to head home with Eastwood helpless.
A hopeless cause? Perfect for Mackie. Sixty-four minutes gone and United made a double substitution to try and find a way back into a game that had seemingly gone. One of those subs, Shandon Baptiste, helped enormously by stepping over the ball to allow it to run through to Mackie, 20 yards out and back to goal. A roll, a sight at goal and the ball was beyond the grasping Marosi and the U's were back in the game.
Henry smashed a good effort wide on 67 then clipped an easier chance against his standing leg when perfectly placed moments later. United took the fight to Coventry, with Mackie taking that literally and the game now completely end to end. Would they level or would they get picked off again? Well, both...
Gorrin was left with his head in his hands when his 79th-minute header was clawed away by Marosi and surely a goal had to come? When it did it was Fankaty Football. Cadden's superb dipping cross was destined for, well, nobody, but Dabo facing his own goal swung a leg and under no pressure whatsoever smashed the ball past the horrified and helpless Marosi.
For the second game in a week United were back to 2-2 after being 2-0 down and a Brannagan free kick was about a foot too high as time began to run out. But even before that it had taken a magnificent block from Simon Eastwood to keep O'Hare away from goal, and as the clock ticked into added on time, the sub was once again granted the freedom of the penalty area, this time making no mistake and burying the ball beyond Eastwood.
Game over? No chance. Fosu chased a lost cause on the right, sent a low ball across and Dabo was on hand to score his second of the day in the wrong net under great pressure from Moore to spark scenes of huge joy.
3-3, ten rewrites and a brilliant, breathless, game of football.
I'm going for a lie down. See you against Norwich under 21s on Tuesday.
Report by Chris Williams, pictures by Steve Daniels and Tom Melvin