Oxford United went through on penalties tonight in the Checkatrade Trophy at Cheltenham. Leading through a Cameron Brannagan header in the first half United were pegged back in the second half before Simon Eastwood became the hero with two saves in the penalty shoot out to send the U's in to the quarter finals.
Brannagan, back in the side after suspension, gave the U's the lead on the stroke of half time after United had come through a tricky first ten minutes to create the better chances in the first half.
A defence that saw Sam Long and Charlie Raglan return was asked to repel a series of early balls into the box as well as balls in behind aimed at giving Alex Addai the chance to show his pace in the first 20 minutes.
However it was a United set piece that brought the first action of the half when a scramble ended with Jordan Graham clipping the ball across and Marcus Browne forcing keeper Scott Flinders in to a decent save at the base of his right hand post.
The U’s grew into the game after that; Graham and Browne proved a highly mobile front three alongside Gavin Whyte, and with Cameron Brannagan joining in there was almost an opener when the midfielder slid in to fire home a Graham cross after 28 minutes but was denied by the sliding Jordon Forster who made a great tackle to keep it at 0-0.
United had created the better chances and as the game slipped into injury time Brannagan gave them the lead. IT actual;ly came from a Cheltenham corner, from which United sprang clear and went the length of the pitch. Overloading the home defence, Henry clipped it to the back post and Brannagan was unmarked to head home his fifth of the season.
That spurred the Robins to try and raise the tempo after the break but the excellent Raglan and Dickie were strong at the centre of the defence and there was always the risk that United would break free and extend their lead; Graham playing some delightful passes into good areas but United not quite getting on to the end of things.
That proved their undoing just after the hour mark when, having just blocked one chance when Aadai got in behind them, they were beaten by a ball in from Chris Hussey which Kevin Dawson met and steered past the exposed Eastwood to level things.
United responded- Mark Sykes coming on for his debut and showing some nice touches and Whyte a constant thorn in the Robins' side. Skipper James Henry whipped an 87th minute just over the bar, Sykes was blocked in the very last minute, but neither side could find a breakthrough, and so to penalties...
Mousinho, Henry, and Graham scored, Eastwood made two excellent saves and then Brannagan rounded off the night with the decisive kick to send the U's through.
Report by Chris Williams, pictures by Steve Daniels, stats by OPTA