Oxford United U18s earned their place in the Fourth Round of the FA Youth Cup with a superb 3-1 victory over Exeter City U18s at St James Park tonight.
Aidan Elliott-Wheeler put United ahead in the 34th minute before Josh Johnson doubled the lead two minutes into the second half. Exeter pulled one back with just under twenty minutes to go through Mitch Beardmore, but United saw out the victory with Gatlin O'Donkor adding a third in injury time.
The impressive U's created their first real chances when Enrique Tiamuna forced a strong save from Lee from the first corner, and then Johnson found himself free at the back post from the second but stabbed his effort wide.
United owed keeper Fraser Barnsley a huge favour after two excellent first half saves; the first clawing the ball one handed off the line from an Ed James' header, before denying Beardmore's looping long range effort five minutes later.
That gave United a foundation, and the young U's grew into the game with Johnson finding more and more space.
The midfielder, back from his loan at Dartford, played a big part in United's opener. He broke the Exeter press and passed to O'Donkor who held up the ball excellently and picked an inch perfect reverse pass into Elliott-Wheeler. The United winger made no mistake and finished comfortably to give United the lead in the 34th minute
United hadn't played their best football yet, but went into the half time break ahead and came out firing, with Johnson pivotal again.
In the 47th minute, he nicked the ball off the Exeter midfield, drove at the heart of the Grecian defence and dropped a body feint before calmly slotting home to double United's lead.
It wasn't all plain sailing though, as Exeter were given a way back into the game when Zaide Took-Oxley brought down Harry Lee in the box.
United were let off as Sonny Cox blasted over the bar from the penalty spot. The U's reacted instantly when O'Donkor rushed down the other end and was only denied by a marvellous last ditch tackle from James. Then, Erion Zabeli had a chance saved well by Lee from the resulting corner.
But it was Exeter who struck next when in the 71st minute Beardmore clawed one back for the home side and set up a tense final 20.
United sealed the deal though in added time when Lee miscontrolled a throw in back to him and O'Donkor was on hand to nick the ball and roll it into an empty net. Game over and United were through.
After a slow start to the game, the young U's ended 2022 on a high with a strong result, and now look ahead to a Fourth Round home tie against Cardiff City.
UNITED: Barnsley, Sankoh, Zabeli, Franklin, Maxwell, Johnson, Took-Oxley, Brenan (Burton, 82'), Tiamuna, O'Donkor, Elliott-Wheeler