Oxford United's U18s secured a hard fought point away at Yeovil Town's Huish Park in Saturday morning's EFL South West League clash.
It was the young Yellows who had the best of the early exchanges showing no ill effects from the 6am start and three hour journey that forms part of an away trip down to Somerset.
Sixteen year old wide man Tyler Goodrham was once again showing the form that has seen him twice named in Karl Robinson's matchday squads whilst Centre Back Viktor Milton looked composed making only his second start back following a nine-month injury layoff.
An early enforced change saw influential midfielder Leon Chambers-Parillon limp off after 15 minutes following a heavy tackle in the middle of the park and the ensuing reshuffle saw first year left back Sam Johnston enter the fray pushing Michael Elechi further forward into a wide midfield role. Elechi, who also featured in the under 23s on Monday, was looking a threat in wide areas with his powerful running and looks to be slowly recapturing some of the form that saw him play a key role in last season's League winning side.
The Yellows deservedly went in front midway through the first half when a clumsy tackle from the Yeovil full-back just inside the box allowed the prolific Crook to step up and score his eighth goal of the season from the resulting spot-kick.
Half-time saw the young U's deservedly in front but, playing up hill in the second half, they knew there was still plenty of work to do. Milton was replaced by first year Centre Back Keanu Barnett-Grant for the second half in a pre-planned change but it was the home side who started the brighter of the two sides forcing Oxford keeper Max Evans into a couple of routine saves. Yeovil's pressure eventually told when Oxford didn't deal with a run and cross down their right-hand channel allowing the home team forward to bundle the ball over the line at the back post for the equaliser.
Oxford lacked fluency in central areas in the second half but still carved out three chances that they should have done better with as they pushed for the winner. A well struck shot from recently signed Fabio Sole cannoned back off the post from sixteen yards out whilst the Yeovil keeper somehow got down to deny Fabio Lopes who connected well from a Goodrham cross only to see his effort kept out low down to the keepers right. With fifteen minutes to go Jordan Edwards replaced Crook in the number nine role and the powerful forward should have done better when put through on goal in a one v one with keeper but his scuffed effort didn't trouble the Yeovil backline.
Goodrham once again beat his full-back with five minutes to go and picked out Elechi at the backpost who didn't connect with his header with the keeper beaten for what should have been the winning goal. As time expired Oxford had to settle for an away point and attention now turns to Tuesday's home EFL Cup game v local rivals Swindon.
UNITED: Evans, Gardner, Milton (Barnett-Grant), Jones, Elechi, Sole, Lopes, Chambers-Parillon (Johnston), Goodrham, Crook (Edwards), Stevens.
Unused Subs: Grant, Niemczycki