Oxford United's under 23s paid the price for a poor start as they lost 4-0 at Huddersfield Town tonight in the Premier League Cup. 2-0 down inside the first eight minutes the U's showed character but just couldn't get back into the game against a more experienced Terriers side managed by former U's midfielder Dean Whitehead, with two late goals just confirming Huddersfield's progress.
United couldn’t have got off to a much worse start. Just three minutes into the game and Terriers skipper Scott High let fly from 25 yards with a low skimming effort which zipped off the damp turf and flew beyond the dive of keeper Max Harris to give the home side an early lead.
Five minutes later and it was twice as bad when centre half Jon Stankovic nodded a second goal from almost under the bar when a corner was allowed to travel to the back post where it was headed back for Stankovic to score.
To be fair Stankovic has been called into the Slovenian national squad and played a number of first team games and a number of the home players have also played senior football so United’s youngsters were always going to be up against it but the opening 20 minutes was almost literally men against boys as the Yellows struggled to stay in the game: only some wasteful finishing and a couple of good saves from Harris kept the U’s in it.
Gradually though United started to edge their way back into the game with midfield Aarons McCreadie and Heap starting to get on the ball. Front two Fabio Lopes and Kyran Lofthouse worked hard with Owen James drifting in to support them from the right and Oussama Zamouri making a first appearance on the left before being withdrawn at half time. There were shouts for a penalty when left back Michael Elechi joined the attack right on the break but there could be few arguments with the scoreline at the interval with the U’s paying for a slow start.
Their improvement continued after the break though with subs Jack Stevens and Leon Chambers-Parillon both doing well. Chambers-Parillon slammed a rising effort over the bar, James saw a goalbound effort deflect wide from an unknowing defender's ear and Lopes forced keeper Coleman into a good save as Chris Allen's side did all they could to get back into the tie.
There were still too many chances at the other end as United left huge gaps, but at least they were giving it a go: Stevens 'scored' a peach of a goal before the play was brought back for an earlier foul and there was much to be enthused by after the break.
However Huddersfield continued to misfire in front of goal but eventually made their chances count. First it was 3-0 with five minutes left when Aaron Rowe let fly from 25 yards and found the bottom left corner of the net and then in the very last minute the excellent Josh Koroma- the best player on the pitch- wrapped it up with a low strike for 4-0 and game over.
They then go through to face Liverpool, Wigan and Sunderland in the group stages and we wish them well in the competition and thank them for their hospitality tonight.The U's will learn from this game, as they do from every match, but will now look to slot in a series of friendlies rather than test themselves against that clibre of opposition.
Harris, Sade (Chambers-Parillon 46), Allardyce, Berkoe, Elechi, Heap, McCreadie, Lofthouse, Lopes (Goodrham 85), James, Zamouri (Stevens 46)
Report by Chris Williams, pictures by Marcus Branston (www.marcusbranston.com)