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Match Reports

REPORT Northampton Town 1 Oxford United 3

Harris double helps U's start Trophy campaign with a win.

5 September 2023

Match Reports

REPORT Northampton Town 1 Oxford United 3

Harris double helps U's start Trophy campaign with a win.

5 September 2023

A patched-up Oxford United started their EFL Trophy campaign in impressive style this evening with an excellent 3-1 win at Northampton Town.

With six players away on international duty and several unavailable through injury, there was a chance for others to stake their claims, and they did exacly that, with Kyle Edwards blasting home a debut goal either side of strikes from Mark Harris, as United came from behind after an early Tyreece Simpson penalty for the Cobblers. There was also a moment of history as forward Louis Griffiths became the youngest first-team player in the club's history.

United were forced into nine changes to the starting line-up. Simon Eastwood captained a side that saw right-back George Franklin and forward Max Woltman make debuts, Edwards make his first start, and Josh McEachran, Jordan Thorniley, Stan Mills, Oisin Smyth and Josh Murphy all come into the side.

Full-back Franklin can be very proud of his debut for his home-town club, but it was Murphy on the other flank who became the central figure in penalties at both ends inside a frantic first 15 minutes.

Asked to play in an unfamiliar left-back role, Murphy was a constant threat when joining the attack, but after three minutes he first did brilliantly to get back and dispossess Shaun McWilliams, but then ran into the back of the decelerating forward, knocking him over and conceding a penalty, which Simpson thumped past the helpless Eastwood.

United responded with Mills and Smyth both testing home keeper Max Thompson before Murphy made a more positive impact at the other end of the pitch. His driving run into the box ended with Thompson again saving, but the ball bounced up and onto the arm of Aaron McGowan to give the U’s a penalty which Harris confidently smashed home for his fourth of the season to make it 1-1.

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The changes of personnel did not mean a change of style or commitment, and United had long spells where they were controlling the game, especially through the impressive midfield duo of Smyth and McEachran.

Their trademark crisp passing gave them the edge, and Edwards’ pace down the left is going to be a very useful addition. The home side’s only effort on target in the first half was their penalty, and two minutes into the second half United were deservedly ahead when McEachran nutmegged his man in midfield and sent the industrious Woltman free. He moved the ball on to Harris who set Edwards flying down the left. His options seemed limited, but he powered the ball past Thompson and United were ahead.

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Northampton responded and Eastwood had to intervene to deny Mitch Pinnock, before Stephan Negru timed a challenge to perfection to ensure his side stayed ahead.

That turned out to be a crucial tackle by the fast-improving Irish defender, and a minute later the lead was stretched when former Liverpool forward Woltman showed superb technique to twist his way to the line and dink the ball back for the unmarked Harris. He sidefooted home his second of the night to make it 3-1 and just about end the contest with half an hour still to play.

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The icing on the cake came with 15 minutes left, when forward Louis Griffiths, two days after his 16th birthday, came on for his debut to become United's youngest-ever player, swiftly followed by a debut for second-year scholar Aidan Elliott-Wheeler as United's Academy celebrated yet more home-grown success. Griffiths is already in the Wales age-group squad, while Elliott-Wheeler has been with the club since he was nine.

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In between those two debuts, the Cobblers were reduced to ten men when Max Dyche was dismissed, but that had little bearing on the result as United opened their group games in the best possible fashion. They will go on to face MK Dons and Chelsea U21s at home in the next two games.

The future looks bright, but in the short-term Liam Manning had talked about depth and the need for people to be ready when they got a chance. He constantly asks constructive questions of his players and tonight he got some very positive answers.

Att: 1,608
Away: 411

Report by Chris Williams, pictures by Darrell Fisher, stats by OPTA

United's Youngest Ever Players

Louis Griffiths Northampton Town 5th September 2023 16 years 2 days
Gatlin O'Donkor Forest Green Rovers 8th December 2020 16 yrs 55 days
Tyler Goodrham Crawley Town 12th November 2019 16 yrs 98 days
Graham Atkinson Chelmsford City 2nd September 1959 16 yrs 108 days
Jason Seacole Mansfield Town 7th September 1976 16 yrs 149 days
Slavi Spasov Fulham U21 4th September 2018 16 yrs 226 days
Fabio Lopes Coventry City 14th August 2018 16 yrs 250 days
Declan Benjamin Ebbsfleet United 17th November 2007 16 yrs 286 days
Ben Weedon Rushden & Diamonds 28th January 2006 16 yrs 304 days
Billy Jeffrey Fulham 26th January 1973 16 yrs 336 days





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