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Match Reports

REPORT Sunderland 1 Oxford United 1

Taylor goal earns the U's a point. Full time report

4 December 2021

Oxford United showed both sides of their game today as they picked up a more than useful point away at Sunderland.

Having fallen behind to an early strike from Leon Dajaku, the U's responded and took the game to the Black Cats in the first half and were deservedly level at the break through Matty Taylor's ninth goal of the season.

They then had to show the grittier side of their character to ensure they kept hold of that point as Sunderland did all they could to break them down after the break.

There was no shortage of action, especially in the opening ten minutes, and United may well have had a penalty when Cameron Brannagan was tripped inside the area; the midfielder was furious to be shown a yellow card when he clearly believed there had been contact. The U's  may have been distracted by that because a minute later they were a goal down when Dajaku came in from the left, opened up space and fired across the exposed Simon Eastwood for the opener.

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United came back strongly and dominated much of the rest of the first half, with Anthony Forde and Gavin Whyte prominent on the right flank and Taylor leading the front line expertly on his return to the side. Crosses fizzed across the face of goal, shots were blocked at source and the only criticism was that the approach play hadn’t turned into clear sights of keeper Thorben Hoffmann’s goal.

That changed after 37 minutes. Holland has added more of a physical side to his game as his loan from West Ham has progressed, and that was evident when he brushed off a defender to reach the goal line. Taylor pulled away from his marker, found space by the front post and his finish was deceptively simple as he made it 1-1 and edged himself into the top 20 goalscorers in the club’s history. Trust me, he will climb that honours board very quickly…

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The home fans were unimpressed, knowing that a win would have moved them level at the top of the table. Manager Lee Johnson will have reminded them of that at the break and they started to show why they are in that position, with top scorer Ross Stewart smashing a drive against the bar and much more urgency all over the pitch.

United, with Elliott Moore returning alongside the mountainous Luke McNally, stood firm as they came under pressure for the first time, but Simon Eastwood was his usual calming self and Sunderland were off target with two or three efforts from around the edge of the box.

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Last week, United were without seven players for Covid-related illnesses, and to ask most of those players to return and play 90 minutes in such a high-intensity game was a tall order. This was going to have to be a squad effort; Taylor and the excellent James Henry were replaced with 15 minutes left and Dan Agyei almost made an immediate impact, blasting a shot at Hoffmann after powering past a defender.

They were grateful to Eastwood for an astonishing touch to divert a goalbound effort onto the post with ten minutes to go, and soaked up late pressure as the home fans did their best to inspire their heroes to a win.

There was a time when United might have crumbled, but not nowadays, when they can draw at heavily fancied teams like Sunderland and Ipswich and win at Sheffield Wednesday.

A decent point earned through spirit and hard work at the start of a tough week. On we go, in good shape, to Doncaster on Tuesday night and MK on Saturday.

Att: 26,634
Away: TBC

Report by Chris Williams, pictures Steve Edmunds and Darrell Fisher, stats by OPTA


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