Oxford United never know when they are beaten in the League Cup. Trailing 2-0 to two goals from Jon Bodvarsson, United hit back through a late strike from Mark Sykes and a penalty from former Millwall forward James Henry to force a penalty shoot-out at the Kassam Stadium tonight. John Mousinho smashed home the winning penalty and the 1986 winners were once again through after a giant killing.
As has become traditional in this competition, United rang the changes, handing Kevin Berkoe a full debut at left back and easing Shandon Baptiste back into action after a long-term knee injury. With Sam Long, John Mousinho, Mark Sykes, Anthony Forde, Rob Hall and Jamie Mackie all coming back into the side, only Simon Eastwood, Jamie Hanson and Elliott Moore remained from the team beaten at Bristol Rovers at the weekend and understandably it took time for United to settle down.
Millwall enjoyed the lion’s share of the ball as a result but didn’t do too much with it until captain Shaun Hutchinson headed a cross down and forced Eastwood into a good save after 20 minutes of a cagey first half.
Hall, looking sharper as each week goes past, almost scored his first goal since his comeback with a free kick on 22 that forced keeper Luke Steele to tip it over the bar and the same player's sublime touch a minute later almost set the hard-running Baptiste free as a sliding defender smuggled the ball away inside the box.
However, the Championship side had looked more likely to find the opener and on 29 minutes it came from a classic source: Keeper Steele to the head of centre forward Tom Elliott who flicked in to the path of Bodvarsson for a barreling run through the United defence and a simple finish to the right of the stranded Eastwood to make it 1-0.
Baptiste almost equalised with a low drive which Steele pushed away on 32 minutes, Hall got too much on another free kick on 42 but United had hung in there and will have been gutted to concede a second goal before the hour mark. It was another very familiar looking goal: a break down the right, a good cross and Bodvarsson got across Moore to flick a clever header over the helpless Eastwood once more to double the Millwall advantage.
The U’s had already seen a Hall drive go a yard wide of the mark and Sykes smashed a 25-yard effort over the bar on the hour as they tried to force their way back into the tie, but it just wasn't to be their night. George Thorne was given just under half an hour to try and open up a well-drilled and very strong Millwall back line on his debut, before Henry was given a late chance to soak up the boos of the fans from his former club; he will get a few more next time the sides meet.
It was midfielder Sykes who set up a traditional cup tie grandstand finish when he blasted a shot through the keeper, via a deflection, with five minutes left and the U's had deserved that goal as the Lions tried to withstand a late onslaught, with the excellent Thorne acting almost as a quarterback in trying to spread the ball forward from deep.
One last ball forward, one twist from Woodburn and United had a penalty. Henry kept his nerve and the game was in the lap of the gods.
And so to penalties. McCarthy made it 1-0 with Millwall's first, Thorne made it 1-1. Bodvarsson sent his over the bar, Woodburn gave United a 2-1 lead. Ferguson saw his spot kick saved by Eastwood and Henry scored his second of the night for a 3-1 lead. Williams made it 3-2 before Mousinho thumped home and United were through.
Extraordinary. See you in the next round....
Report by Chris Williams, pictures by Steve Daniels, stats by OPTA