Oxford United went through on penalties after two late goals forced the drama of a shoot out at the Pirelli Stadium.
Nathan Holland, back for a second loan from West Ham, swept home a Mark Sykes cross after 84 minutes to give United a late lead but a long throw in the 96th minute of 95 bounced past the stranded Simon Eastwood via the helpless John Mousinho to force penalties. Mousinho then made up for that with a typically wonderful penalty to send the U's through.
United, in their third kit for the second time, took the opportunity to hand a full debut to centre-half Luke McNally and forward Billy Bodin, while Leon Chambers-Parillon got an opportunity at left-back in front of Simon Eastwood on his return in goal. With Alex Gorrin, Sam Winnall and Marcus McGuane also making first starts of the season, it perhaps wasn’t too surprising to see the U’s take time to hit their stride.
Eastwood was relieved to see a John Brayford header bounce into his arms rather than the net in the opening exchanges and happy to see Omari Patrick blaze another chance over the top after 15 minutes as the home side applied pressure. United responded and Dan Agyei, starting to the left of Billy Bodin and Winnall in a three-man attack, saw an effort deflect wide as the they started to settle.
There was another let off though when Brayford thumped a volley into the body of Patrick with Eastwood going the other way behind the cowering forward shortly before half time, although in truth neither keeper had made a meaningful save despite plenty of effort and some neat approach play at both ends.
The first save of note came when Eastwood had to react to an over-enthusiastic back pass from Chambers-Parillon, otherwise very steady in unfamilar territory, but there were hints of what's to come with McNally dominant in the air and Bodin showing flashes of realy quality and composure: one second-half dummy sent me two complete letters the wrong way on the ;tim[dyg.
Holland, available for the first time since spending ten days in isolation, was given 20 minutes to help break the deadlock, but the hard-working Sykes, soon to be provider, was the saviour at the other end with a goal-line block from a Conor Shaughnessy header after 73 minutes as the game edged slowly towards penalties.
Captain McGuane made way for another debut for 16-year-old midfielder Josh Johnson before McNally poked a decent chance over the bar at one end and Patrick fired over from similar distance at the other as both sides began to tire at the Pirelli.
It was Holland who looked to have decided matters though, ghosting into the six-yard box to apply a simple finish to a fine move in which Anthony Forde had threaded a ball down the line for Sykes to gallop away and fire in the most inviting of crosses.
However, with Karl Robinson pleading for the final whistle, a long throw was headed goalwards by Brayford and cruelly took a touch from former Brewer Mousinho to leave it level after 90 minutes.
Akins couldn't beat Eastwood, Sykes made it 1-0 (via the crossbar). Shaughnessy levelled but Forde made it 2-1. O'Connor missed, Agyei extended it to 3-1. Blake-Tracy rolled home for 2-3 but Mousinho made amends by thumping home to win it: has there been a more dramatic three minutes for a sub?
A draw and a win on the road. United now move on to the first home game in front of fans. Can't wait.
Report by Chris Williams, pictures by Steve Edmunds, stats by OPTA