Football is a funny old game*. Last night the first team were 2-0 down and came back to force extra time against Newcastle with a goal in injury time. Tonight it was the turn of the young U's who came back from 2-0 down at the break at Banbury to level through goals from Kyran Lofthouse and Fabio Lopes before the U's finally admitted defeat in a penalty shoot out after extra time.
It was another remarkable game, just not so many people to see it.
With Jamie Hanson the only senior player in a youthful starting eleven - Eddie Odhiambo on the Banbury bench had more first team appearances for the U’s than their entire squad combined - there was no shortage of neat passing and youthful endeavour and three good chances before they unfortunately conceded the first goal of the night.
The first shot of the night came from midfielder Leon Chambers-Parillon before Jack Stevens tested keeper Jack Harding’s handling for the first time with a low free kick after 17 minutes. Harding should have been beaten a couple of minutes later but Fabio Lopes sent a fine cross from Lofthouse over the stand from close range.
Keeper Max Harris wasn’t called into action until half an hour had gone but excelled with a fine save from a rising Ravi Shamsi drive, but that was merely a prelude to two goals from the Puritans before the break.
First, after 35 minutes, a wicked inswinging corner was flicked home by skipper/centre forward (playing centre half) Ricky Johnson. Right on half time it was a similar source for the second goal: a deeper corner not cleared and Lee Henderson sliding it home at the second attempt.
United needed a response and got it immediately upon the restart when Stevens threaded the ball through and Lofthouse calmly dribbled round the keeper and planted the ball home to make it 2-1 and the winger, currently on loan to Oxford City, had two more good chances to get his side level as the U's chased the game.
It made for end-to-end entertainment (think Newcastle with a fraction of the crowd) and Harris made three good saves as the action became very stretched. United had the bulk of the play in the second half but couldn't find an equaliser despite plenty of pressure until Lopes wriggled clear and planted the ball past the keeper in the 95th minute of 93.
That set up 30 minutes extra time and good saves from both keepers as well as an unbelievable effort from both teams who ran themselves into the ground to try and find a winner. Lofthouse went closest to finding it with a last-minute curling effort that went a metre wide, but Banbury would have felt hard done by after such a Herculean effort and deserved their chance at a penalty shoot-out.
Wilson put the home side ahead, Lopes had his effort saved.
Westbrook made it 2-0, Stevens calmly made it 2-1.
Fasenmade poked home for 3-1, Chambers-Parillon had his penalty saved.
Johnson scored. Game over.
24 hours, two great games and credit to both sides. Our best wishes to Banbury who now take on Oxford City in the semi final.
Harris, Berkoe (Johnson 106), Hanson (Sade 71), Jones, Milton, Sole, Chambers-Parillon, Stevens, Lopes, Lofthouse, Spasov (Goodrham 77)
Subs: Evans, Edwards
Report by Chris Williams