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REPORT Oxford United 2 Bristol Rovers 2

U's head for Bristol for a replay. Full time report

7 November 2021

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Oxford United will need to travel to Bristol for a replay after an Antony Evans penalty with four minutes to go earned Bristol Rovers a 2-2 draw at the Kassam Stadium.

United led twice, first through a Matty Taylor goal which Sam Finley equalised, and then through a Marcus McGuane strike which looked like sending them through. However, Rovers kept going at them and got their reward when Evans levelled from the spot to give the sides a rematch in nine days time.

Taylor and Sykes had early efforts before Taylor notched the inevitable opener after just ten minutes, applying a simple finish to an excellent ball across the six yard box from the terrific Mark Sykes.

Rovers-1st-(2).jpg

That goal opened the game up nicely and set up an excellent cup tie. Rovers responded well and went close when Antony Evans clipped the outside of the post before Simon Eastwood made a wonderful save to touch a rising effort from Paul Coutts over the bar, Sykes bravely heading the ball off the line from the resulting corner.

Taylor was always going to be the centre of attention - winning Player of the Month, scoring the opener and sparking a kerfuffle when booked for a robust challenge after half an hour - but there was some admirable football from those around him as well; Sam Long made an excellent block to keep the goal lead and Cameron Brannagan adapted to play the holding role with real class after Alex Gorrin hobbled off early in the game.

However, Rovers defended resolutely and kept finding good positions around United’s box. They caused more problems than many League 1 sides have done at the Kassam Stadium this season, and when Finley seized on a loose ball at the back of the six yard box and fired back across the helpless Eastwood, the teams were level at 1-1 at the break.

Karl Robinson will have had a few words to lift his team at the break and to be fair to them, kicking towards their own fans, United responded. A little bit of extra tempo got them going, Ryan Williams adding energy in attack and early in the second half driving at the Rovers defence and feeding Taylor inside the box. His clever flick sent McGuane beyond the visiting defence and his excellent curling finish was beyond keeper Belshaw and into the top right corner to make it 2-1.

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Back came The Gas, and it was Eastwood to the rescue as he got a boot to a goalbound effort from Sam Nicholson after 55 minutes to preserve the lead.

United should really have been dreaming of who they would be facing in the next round, and for a spell they threatened to run riot. Whyte headed three yards wide when one yard out and Brannagan was only denied Goal of the Season/Goal of the Competition (previous 149 years included) when his effort from half way was just about tipped over by the backpedalling Belshaw.

Sykes also hit the bar after dribbling across the face of the Rovers penalty area and Taylor was desperately unlucky when his dipping volley cleared Belshaw but struck the right hand post on 65 minutes before a clever turn and low shot struck the same upright 30 seconds later.

The well-documented magic of the cup meant that Rovers were never out of it, Eastwood again saving bravely at the feet of Nicholson as the game remained annoyingly end to end. Then with time running out, sub Jamie Hanson thundered into a challenge and caught Aaron Collins. Evans drilled past Eastwood and a replay is required.

A good game of football, fiercely contested, and both teams in the hat for Monday night's draw for the second round.

Fifty/50 winning number 8729 wins £526.50

Att: 5,083
Away: 797

Report by Chris Williams, pictures Steve Edmunds, stats by OPTA

 


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