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2023/24 Season Review Part 6

Into the New Year. The season review takes us into January 2024

11 June 2024

Club News

2023/24 Season Review Part 6

Into the New Year. The season review takes us into January 2024

11 June 2024

United entered the New Year still firmly in the Play-Off picture, but January started with four successive away games.

A New Year's Day visit to Charlton Athletic began 2024 and it was a game that will live long in the memory. Especially that of Oisin Smyth, who stepped up in the dying moments to fire home a spectacular winner. With 12 first-team players unavailable due to injury, it was a patched-up side that took to the Valley pitch and it was Charlton that drew first blood through an early Chem Campbell strike. A lovely team move teed up the equaliser: Ruben Rodrigues fed the overlapping Fin Stevens and his perfect cross was steered home by Mark Harris for his first league goal since August. United were on top in the second half but it was looking like they wouldn't make their dominance count. Step up Smyth, playing as the right-sided centre-back in a back three; Cameron Brannagan played the ball inside to him, he took a touch to steady himself and another to get set and, with no home player interested in closing him down, he let fly from 30 yards to complete another wonderful Valley victory.

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Next up, a game to be forgotten as Oxford visited Coventry City in the third round of the FA Cup. Harris scored an early equaliser and Tyler Goodrham got a late consolation, but the Sky Blues hit the U's for six to end the side's interest in that competition. Another cup defeat followed in midweek, when AFC Wimbledon eliminated United from the Bristol Street Motors Trophy. Oxford were already two down when Simon Eastwood was shown a red card, leaving Smyth - goalscorer extraordinaire eight days earlier - to take the gloves.

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Back in league action the following Saturday, Oxford made the long trip to Carlisle United and came away with a 3-1 win. Jamie Cumming made his first start for the U's but didn't have too much to do, while skipper Elliott Moore made a welcome return after illness. United opened the scoring five minutes before the break as Moore headed back a Brannagan corner and Harris was on hand to prod home the opener. Three minutes into the second half Harris was at it again, running clean through, round keeper Harry Lewis, and 2-0. On 69 minutes United had the game wrapped up as Goodrham scored a typically excellent goal before Carlisle's late consolation.

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The feelgood factor then took a bit of a dive as United lost the next two games, at home to Play-Off rivals Barnsley and then away at Bristol Rovers. But the month ended with arguably the best performance of the lot as John Mousinho brought top-of-the-table Portsmouth to the Kassam Stadium. United took the lead on the stroke of half-time as Goodrham again provided the necessary inspiration, firing home from 20 yards from an excellent Marcus McGuane through ball. Portsmouth equalised through Colby Bishop midway through the second half following a goalmouth scramble, and they took the lead when substitute Callum Lang, on his Pompey debut, beat substitute goalie Simon Eastwood. Never a side to give up, another substitute made the difference as a stoppage-time shot from Harris was pushed into the air by Will Norris and James Henry followed up to nod the ball home from six inches to earn a well-deserved share of the spoils.

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