Cameron Brannagan celebrated being handed the captain's armband by smashing home a last-gasp winner to send Oxford United through to the second round of the Carabao Cup. Brannagan fired home a late free kick to seal a 1-0 win in a very close game, although a serious-looking injury to Malachi Napa cast a shadow over the U's progress.
Shape wise, United started with a back four in which Elliott Moore made his debut, protected by Jamie Hanson in a holding role and Mark Sykes and captain Cameron Brannagan slightly more advanced, while Rob Hall and Anthony Forde joined Napa from wider starting positions.
Moore had his work cut out against the powerful Ivan Toney, who netted from offside before snapping a speculative effort over the bar after ten minutes, but the first half was overshadowed by a 20th minute challenge that ended Napa’s evening early as he departed in obvious discomfort on a stretcher. Terrible luck for the young forward who had played well and we hope will be back with that familiar smile on his face very soon - he will have a scan tomorrow on what looked like a fracture.
Replacement Ben Woodburn settled quickly into the front-man role but the fact that the teams met on Saturday meant they had a healthy respect and knew each other's games inside out and that led to a little bit of a stalemate in the first half. Peterborough had more efforts at goal but Eastwood’s one good save was really the only danger at either end and both Long and Brannagan sent in late efforts as United ended the first 45 minutes well.
Peterborough, as in the meeting four days earlier, had a good spell early in the second half and almost found the breakthrough when Serhat Tasdemir's powerful cross flicked off the right big toe of Rob Dickie and smacked against the right-hand post with Eastwood helpless. Mo Eisa floated another decent effort just over on 63 and the Posh had been asking most of the questions for a spell before United regrouped and Rob Hall started to grow into the game with some very promising runs on the right: great signs for a man playing his first game in a year.
Woodburn tried his luck twice from distance, Brannagan clipped another long range effort over the bar after 68 minutes and, as expected, the excellent Forde and a tiring but hugely influential Hall made way for James Henry and another debut for Kevin Berkoe as penalties loomed ever closer.
Peterborough were reduced to ten men for the final ten minutes when debutant Tasdemir hobbled off with a calf problem and United enjoyed the extra space, although it was the away side who almost exploited it when sub Harrison Burrows raced away after a quick free kick but was denied by a smart save by the alert Eastwood with five minutes left.
That proved crucial when a minute later United booked their place in the second round. Henry was tripped by Mason on the edge of the box and Brannagan roared up and smashed the free kick low and true to signal a captain's contribution and send his side through. It took one last save from Eastwood to deny Eisa an equaliser in injury time but the back line had totally deserved their second clean sheet in a row.
United - winners in 1986 - go into the draw for the next round. A tough result against a tough team but fully deserved and United remain unbeaten after three games of what promises to be an exciting season.
See you in Blackpool...
Report by Chris Williams, pictures by Steve Daniels, stats by OPTA