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Match Reports

REPORT Portsmouth 1 Oxford United 1

Browne strike leaves play-off level after the first leg

3 July 2020

A Marcus Browne goal means that both Oxford United and Portsmouth have all to play for in Monday's second leg of the Sky Bet League 1 play-offs.

Browne's superb run and strike just before half time pulled the U's back on level terms after Ronan Curtis had given the home side an early lead, but both sides will be relatively happy to be going into the return tie level.

Perhaps understandably, United took time to shake off the rust and there was an early scare when winger Curtis drilled a low shot against the left-hand post after six minutes, before centre-halves Christian Burgess and Sean Raggett got in each other’s way and a decent headed chance went wide of the mark.

United dug in, refused to concede an early goal and the first drinks break gave them a chance to regroup and try to get on the ball more for the second quarter; it didn’t quite work out that way although the excellent Josh Ruffels headed goalwards only to be denied by a covering defender on the back post.

The danger was still coming from the home side and after half an hour they were ahead when Curtis again found space on the left and this time adjusted his sights, sending it through Eastwood’s legs to give Pompey the advantage.

Stung into action, United started to look more like their usual pre-lockdown selves and Browne went close with a long-range effort as they came back at the home side with typical character. Browne looked the likely source of an equaliser and on 43 minutes he drew the U’s level with a typical, sensational, strike.

Picking up the ball inside his own half, Browne drove at the retreating Pompey defence who were almost among their cardboard cut outs in the stand by the time they stopped going backwards and spotted the danger. Too late. A low shot inside the near post of Alex Bass's goal and United were all square at the break.

Mark Sykes added energy soon after half time and United began to regain the swagger that had seen them win five in a row before the lay-off.

They were close to a lead when Marcus Harness flicked a header just over his own bar on the hour and James Henry made it all about keeper Bass, who had no trouble with a long-range effort on 63. 

Credit to the players on both sides; a 2D crowd is no substitute for the passion of a packed Fratton Park but the teams produced an honest, open match which masked the fact they hadn't played for over 100 days.

It wasn't always pretty but to go into a game with so much at stake after such a long enforced lay-off was a tough call for all involved. Eastwood kept it level with a sprawling save from a Burgess header but a draw will suffice.

On to the next one. Ninety minutes and the adventure continues with a chance of Wembley and perhaps the Championship.

Most of you would have settled for that a year ago, right?

See you, in spirit at least, on Monday.

Report by Chris Williams stats by OPTA

Images: Dave Fleming/Rex Shutterstock

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