Oxford United U18s beat Bridgwater United 3-0 in the first round of the FA Youth Cup this evening at Court Place Farm.
Aidan Elliott-Wheeler broke the deadlock just before half time before Leo Snowden made it two shortly after the restart. The game was wrapped up when substitute Harrison Bradney completed the scoring right at the death.
Bridgwater had the first good chance after 6 minutes, when Freddy Haden capitalised on a mistake from Max Smith and Monty Marriott was forced into a strong save before Fran Souza headed the rebound over from close range for the visitors from the South-West.
United reacted well though, and Kasway Burton went down the other end and curled one a matter of inches over the cross bar from range.
The U’s controlled possession, as expected, but credit to Bridgwater who tried to move the ball when given the opportunity.
Snowden had a good chance after a clever dummy from skipper Zaide Took-Oxley, but fired wide from the edge of the box, and then Bridgwater had a good chance headed well over at the back post.
Then, just over five minutes before half time, Elliott-Wheeler picked up the ball 30 yards out, drove at the heart of the defence and fired an excellent strike in off the crossbar with the outside of his boot – a bit of magic to give United the lead in what was becoming a tough game.
Rashane Maxwell than had an effort blocked at the last minute just after the goal, and the U’s went into the break a goal to the good.
The Yellows weren’t going to have it easy, though, and Bridgwater showed that as a minute after the restart Marriott was called into action, parrying Preston Hopwood’s close-range effort.
But in the 53rd minute, Snowden settled any nerves. Elliott-Wheeler's strike from range was parried by Isaac Finch straight to the striker, leading the line and playing up from the U16s, and he finished calmly to make it 2-0.
United started to turn it on as the visiting side began to tire and came close to a third on numerous occasions. Snowden fired just wide of the post, Cameron Cooper chopped inside his man and rattled the inside of the post, then minutes later smashed the underside of the bar and saw his effort bounce onto the line and hooked clear.
Bradney replaced the energetic Burton with just over 15 to play, followed by United's youngest-ever senior appearance maker Louis Griffiths for Cooper five minutes later.
Took-Oxley drilled an effort wide from the edge in the dying embers and then Bradney popped up to make it three with an effort from range that snuck in at the near post.
Jacob Fowler replaced Snowden, and in the end it was a comfortable enough victory and clean sheet for the U's, who progress to the second round.
LINEUP: Marriott, McIntyre, Smith, Lacey, Maxwell, Took-Oxley, Brenan, Elliott-Wheeler, Cooper (Griffiths 80'), Snowden (Fowler 90'), Burton (Bradney 73')
Report by Billy Lawrence, Photos by Darrell Fisher and Steve Edmunds