Oxford United's unbeaten run continued although their winning streak was ended with a 2-2 draw at Accrington this afternoon. Tremendous goals from Tariqe Fosu and Cameron Brannagan were cancelled out by Jordan Clark and Offrande Zanzale as Stanley twice came back from behind in a thoroughly entertaining encounter.
United, all in white, played some neat football but were disrupted first after ten minutes, when Ben Woodburn was forced off after a hefty challenge damaged his ankle and led to Anthony Forde replacing him, and then on 42 when Forde in turn had to be replaced by Alex Gorrin.
To overcome both injuries and still be leading at the break shows real resilience, even if there weren’t too many chances at either end in the first half; think of it as an appetiser for a feast of a second half.
Colby Bishop headed Stanley’s first, and almost only, opportunity of the first half well over and Jamie Mackie, preferred to Matty Taylor up top, could only send an early effort into the gloves of home keeper Dimitar Evtimov from the edge of the box.
It wasn’t a lack of ability that led to a lack of chances though. One magnificent tackle from left back Jerome Opoku on Shandon Baptiste after 15 minutes was perfectly timed and illustrated the solid defending on show from both sides, while the outstanding Dickie continually picked off through passes and carried the ball forward looking to drive his team forward.
What we needed was a goal to open things up and on 28 we got a peach of an opener. Wide on the left, former Accrington loanee Fosu was fouled at least three times as he came inside past defender after defender. Once central, he looked up and fired low and true into the bottom left corner. 1-0. Five goals in four games for Fosu and his own personal Goal of the Season competition hots up.
A frustrated Stanley started to pick up yellow cards; there was a sudden outbreak of handbags on the break and a little bit more pressure when the second half got under way, but United stood firm and cruised past the '500 minutes without conceding' mark with Eastwood largely untroubled.
However when a deep free kick came in, Eastwood came to claim it but someone beat him to the punch and headed it onwards towards goal and Clark was there to nod it home and level things up. Sam Finley then hammered a 25-yard effort against the post with Eastwood beaten on that one but up smartly to save the follow up.
Having been inches away from trailing, United instead roared forward and regained the lead through the brilliant Brannagan, 25 yards out. In a suspicious amount of space, Brannagan looked up and planted the ball in the top left corner. Another terrific goal and United were in front once more, but this time it lasted barely three minutes.
Sub Zanzale had made Stanley far more dangerous after his introduction at half time and on 73 minutes he made it 2-2 with another really good goal. Again given space outside the box, the striker drilled it low and true and Eastwood could do little as it nestled into the bottom corner of the net for 2-2 in a breathless second half.
Eastwood then underlined his importance with two fine saves, the second from Pritchard on 85 the pick of them and ensuring that the U's picked up a point for their efforts.
I was always going to use this line at some stage, but only because it is true: you cannot win them all! A point on the road, another strong performance, and United's upwards momentum continues.
Honours even and on we go...
Report by Chris Williams, pictures by Steve Daniels, stats by OPTA