Two late goals saw Oxford United U18s beaten for the first time in Merit League One this season at AFC Bournemouth after a hard-fought game.
It was an open start to the match as both sides looked to impose themselves. Goalkeeper Damian Niemczycki was called into action as Bournemouth hit the U’s on the break but the United stopper got down quickly to palm the ball away from danger.
Tyler Goodrham showed glimpses of his quality as he impressed on the wing as the U’s looked to make an early impact but his low shot on 14 minutes was the closest the U’s came to an opener, the youngster watching his effort bounce into the hands of the goalkeeper.
The U’s had two good chances as the first half drew to a close. First, Goodrham twisted his way into the area and got a shot away but was penalised for a foul in the build-up, before Connor Ferguson’s strike from the edge of the area squirmed underneath the goalkeeper but was judged not to have crossed the line. United were almost undone five minutes before half time as a Bournemouth header struck the post, but Niemczycki reacted well to parry the second attempt away and to keep the score level at the break.
United started the second half eager to come out on top. Jack Gardner made an excellent challenge in the middle of the park before tempers flared, but it was this fiery edge to the game that benefited the U’s. Adam Smith fed a trialist, who in turn played the ball to Josh Anifowose, whose shot was deflected behind as United started to push for the opener.
Smith began to cause trouble on the right and fired in an excellent cross for Ferguson who met the ball six yards out, but couldn’t turn it in, before Matt Crook had the chance of the game on 55 minutes, his header forcing a great save from the goalkeeper. It was one-way traffic and the U’s certainly looked the more likely to score.
A trialist flashed a dangerous ball across the face of goal which couldn’t be turned in on the hour mark, and Will Owens replaced Smith in a bid to make the most of the possession. Niemczycki was called into action with a flying save, but United were determined to make the most of their attacking outlets as they continued to push Bournemouth. Goodrham and Ferguson combined well but still the decisive strike evaded the youngsters despite their best efforts.
However, Bournemouth struck twice late on as they caught the U’s on the break and fired home the opening goal after United had dominated most of the second half. The first was a strike from the edge of the area into the bottom-left corner before, two minutes later, the hosts fired in the second as they prodded in a loose ball from six yards.
It was a cruel end to a game that United had taken to Bournemouth. No lack of effort, no lack of desire, but Bournemouth had taken their chances where the young U’s hadn’t and took the three points in Merit League One.
UNITED: Niemczycki, Trialist (Grant), Johnson, Gardner, Nosakhare, Trialist, Goodrham, Smith (Owens), Crook, Anifowose (Franklin), Ferguson
Unused Subs: Brearey