Oxford United went through in the Papa John's Trophy tonight after a penalty shoot out win against Forest Green Rovers. Trailing to an Odin Bailey goal at half time United levelled through Olamide Shodipo before the game went into a penalty shoot out in which John Mousinho's final kick sent the U's through to Round Three.
United saw plenty of the ball in the first half and almost got off to the perfect start when Rob Hall, a loanee at Rovers last season, curled a free kick against the post in the first minute. Mide Shodipo then fired a well-struck effort just over the bar after eight minutes as the front line of Hall, Shodipo and Dan Agyei caused early problems with their clever movement.
They were joined by the ever-willing Sean Clare from right back and Jordan Obita from the left, plus for one fleeting moment in the 16th minute the returning Jamie Hanson, who danced past two men but thumped his volley into the body of a defender when a shooting chance emerged.
However, the early energy dipped and the visitors saw a powerful header from Jamille Matt flash wide of Simon Eastwood’s goal after 22 minutes. They then took the lead with their only effort on target in the first half; having conceded to an Aasgard at Wigan this time it was Odin who did the damage.
A good tackle from Jones unluckily went to the visitors and a cross into the box from Matt Stevens allowed Bailey a simple free header past the stranded Eastwood to make it 1-0 at the break.
The crew of a Netflix production team camped in the car park behind the fence at the west end of the ground were more disturbed than Eastwood by an early Stevens effort in the second half, but the visitors were seeing much more of the ball by that stage and United needed a lift.
The youthful Leon Chambers-Parillon was given a home debut for the final half hour, signalling a change to wing backs (Forde and Clare) to try and stretch the game and find a way back into the tie from out wide. The effect was immediate and within a minue United were on level terms.
Shodipo, wide on the left, has pace and tricks and on 64 minutes powered through a wilting Forest Green defence and levelled the scores with an angled shot across the keeper for 1-1.
Agyei saw one chance deflected wide for a corner soon after and another flash across the face of goal as the U's pressed. Shodipo was off target, and there was a moment of history when striker Gatlin O'Donkor, 16 years and 55 days old, became United's youngest-ever player. A great moment for the youngster from Reading and the spine of the side now formed in the Academy: Jones, Chambers-Parillon, O'Donkor.
That chance to give youngsters a chance is a big part of the competition, and Chambers-Parillon almost stole the show when he drove forward and powered a shot at goal that struck the bar and meant penalties (confirmed when Bailey sliced one last chance wide at the other end in injury time).
Taken, for reasons unknown, at the fence end rather than in front of the 1,000 fans, O'Donkor put the first away with amazing confidence, Eastwood saved the next. Clare made it 2-0, Bailey made it 2-1. Shodipo chipped home a cheeky effort fo 3-1 and to a chorus of rattling chairs Godwin-Malife could only hit the bar. Mousinho, of course, thumped home for 4-1 and that was it.
United go through, youth and experience had their day and an extra slice of Papa John's Trophy awaits.
Report by Chris Williams, pictures by Steve Daniels, stats by OPTA