An enthralling FA Youth Cup tie at Colchester United was finally won 4-3 at the death by Oxford, thanks to Adam Smith's last-gasp header. In a game that saw two penalties saved, Slavi Spasov gave United the lead but Colchester hit back to go 2-1 up. Fabio Lopes equalised and Spasov scored from the spot before the home side were reduced to ten men. However, they refused to lie down and brought themselves back into the game before Smith sealed the win with the last touch of the game.
In a first team stadium such as the Weston it would have been easy for the young U’s to be slightly on edge but instead they set the pace early on and were ahead after nine minutes when the tireless Tyler Goodrham chased a seemingly lost cause (Oxford fans will see a lot more of this from the 16-year-old in years to come) and robbed a dawdling defender as he tried to shield the ball out for a goalkick. Goodhram then flicked the ball across and Spasov had the simple task of rolling home his third goal in two games since returning from a long-term injury.
It might have been 2-0 when Lopes showed good strength to burst past two men and test home keeper Chandler Hallett’s handling for the first time after 16 minutes but United then surrendered the early initiative and allowed their hosts back into the game.
On 24 minutes it should have been level when the alternative U’s were awarded a penalty after Nico Jones pulled Jake Hutchinson over inside the box. Hutchinson dusted himself down but couldn’t beat keeper Max Evans from the spot as the Oxford keeper threw himself to his left for an excellent save.
However, Hutchinson was not to be denied and on 32 found a way to beat Evans from close range. It owed everything to a magnificent run down the wing by left-back Al-Amin Kazeem who ran from deep inside his own half, shrugging off the persistent Goodrham who had at least three goes at stopping him, before delivering a perfect cross on the run for Hutchinson to head past the helpless Evans.
Three minutes into the second half and it was 2-1 when Andre Hasanally arrived at the back post to thump the ball into an empty net and ask questions of United’s character. It took little time for them to heed the warnings and get back into the game, with Connor Ferguson the provider with a clipped ball in for Lopes who nodded the ball into space then hammered it past Hallett to make it 2-2.
Very recent history then repeated itself when the home side's Billy Cracknell grabbed Viktor Milton's shirt from a corner in an identical incident to the earlier penalty and Lopes put the spot kick into exactly the same spot for Hallett to haul it to safety with a save that mirrored Evans' earlier effort. Chandler Bing indeed.
No matter. Two minutes later and the game's third penalty came along. This time is was Goodrham brought down and Spasov handed the responsibility. His penalty was firm and true, to the keeper's right, and United were back in front at 3-2.
Colchester were rattled and on 64 were a man down when Marley Marshall-Miranda, already on a yellow, lunged in to the back of Goodrham and was shown a red card. Now seemingly in control of their own destiny, United exploited the extra space very well but on 79 minutes were once again punished when the ten men made it 3-3 against the odds. Credit to Colchester this time for refusing to give in, although in truth United should have cleared the danger when the ball rattled around the edge of their box for a couple of minutes before Diogo Freitas-Gouveia picked it up and fired into the bottom left corner with Evans helpless.
Hutchinson then wasted a great chance to see his side home inside 90 minutes but sent his effort wide of the far post as he fired across the exposed Evans before the Oxford keeper made his best save of the night in the 90th minute and Hallett saved his own best for the 92nd minute to deny Ferguson and surely ensure that we went to extra time.
Never. The 96th minute of 94 and United win a corner. In it swings to the back post and Smith nods home under pressure to win a fantastic cup tie.
Another thoroughly entertaining game and another exciting performance that promises much for the future. The U's now go on to play Maidenhead United in the third round, with the game pencilled in at Thame United; full details to follow once finalised.
Evans, Barnett (Gardner 84), Elechi, Sole, Milton, Jones, Goodrham, Chambers-Parillon, Spasov (Smith 68), Lopes, Ferguson
Niemczycki, Crook, Edwards, Johnson, Nosakhare
Report by Chris Williams