A John Mousinho goal earned Oxford United a more than creditable draw against Championship side Fulham this evening. Trailing to an Anthony Knockaert free kick before the break, the U's rallied and were full value for the draw as they start to put the final preparations to their plans for the season ahead.
It was another highly entertaining game of football on a beautiful English summer’s evening, with both sides committed to playing football the right way and starting to work as cohesive units with the season just ten days away.
Fulham, among the favourites for a return to the Premier League, showed some excellent movement and an ability to spray the ball around on a superb playing surface but United matched them throughout and with Jamie Mackie giving them a focal point up top and Chris Cadden settling immediately at right-back the first half was evenly matched.
The difference came from a set piece when new signing Knockaert showed a touch of class with a 24th-minute free kick to open the scoring. Alex Gorrin conceded it, chasing back to just outside his own area but catching his man. Knockaert stepped up to flight a nice free kick inside the right-hand post with Simon Eastwood unsighted and stranded.
The rest of the first half was more about possession than chances, with neither keeper actually making a save in the first 45 minutes: Eastwood helped in this by a solid performance from John Mousinho and the excellent Rob Dickie just in front of him.
It was skipper Mousinho who got his side back into the game on 55 minutes. Cameron Brannagan, playing initially in a more forward role than usual, clipped a free kick into the area which Mousinho got enough on to guide the ball past keeper Marek Rodak and just inside the far post for an equaliser that United had deserved.
Indeed they might have won it: sub James Henry firing into the wall from a free kick after good work from Tariqe Fosu and lots of neat approach play despite a score of changes to give youth its chance in the closing stages. Indeed, Kyran Lofthouse almost won it in the 87th minute with an effort that escaped the clutches of the keeper but rolled tamely away off the base of the post.
I've said it after every game this summer: the result is largely irrelevant but it's all about peaking at the right time; away at Sunderland in ten days time, plus getting the miles into the legs to sustain a challenge over a long ten months.
Tonight United looked strong and looked like they are on the right lines. Cadden slotted straight in and with more new faces expected, who knows what awaits?
More immediately, they travel to Solihull for one last friendly on Saturday. See you there.
Report by Chris Williams, pictures Steve Daniels