It was a mixed set of results this week for Oxford United as the women’s side took an uncharacteristic stumble in their promotion push. The men and the U18s more than made up for it though with more late drama keeping the Us in League One playoff contention.
Wednesday night saw the club’s first action of the week with the women hosting Southampton at Court Place Farm in front of a record crowd of 505. The Saints looked on track to spoil the party after taking the lead inside seven minutes through Alisha Ware. The Yellows began to come into the game more though and the equaliser on the brink of half-time proved enough to earn them a well-earned point.
Chris Hackett’s U18s kicked off the weekend’s action with their first win of the season in the Merit League. Playing away to Portsmouth, the youngsters played out a tight encounter and got the breakthrough when Josh Johnson finished off an Elijah Coe ball in. The Us then defended well and saw out a good result against a high-achieving Pompey side.
The senior men were up next in the three o’clock kick-off and yet again they brought the drama. United travelled to Shrewsbury and took a deserved lead through Matty Taylor after eleven minutes. They failed to make the most of their other chances though and Ryan Bowman got the crowd going again with an equaliser on the hour mark. Cameron Brannagan had other ideas though and converted from the spot with eight minutes left to play to seal all three points.
Sunday saw the women’s long unbeaten streak ended at MK Dons in a big dent to their title challenge. They missed chances in the first half that they would have taken on another day and the home side made them pay just before the hour mark. The Us came back into the game after that but couldn’t find an equaliser, meaning the game went on to finish 1-0.
The week ended with the news of Northern Ireland call-ups for both Gavin Whyte and Ciaron Brown, a fine reflection of their form so far this season.
So, as the week comes to an end the men are sitting fourth in League One with a two-point gap to Sunderland below them. The women are now four points off title rivals Ipswich after dropping points twice in the same week for the first time this season.
Match Report: Shrewsbury Town 1-2 Oxford United
Oxford United made a big statement as they got back to winning ways with victory away to Shrewsbury Town on Saturday.
The day had started badly for Oxford fans with the news that Jack Stevens, Sam Long and Ciaron Brown were all ruled out with illness. They only added to the injury woes of inform Sam Baldock to leave the visitors in a situation that most sides would struggle to deal with. It also meant that John Mousinho took the captain’s armband as he played for the first time in the league since 2020.
The home team started the game brightest: full of energy and attacking prowess they forced early blocks from centre-backs Seddon and Mousinho. It wasn’t long before Oxford started to show their class though and on the eleven-minute mark, Herbie Kane’s pass found Gavin Whyte, who forced a save from Marosi in the home net. The rebound fell kindly for Matty Taylor and Oxford’s top scorer smashed home to give the Us the lead.
The Shrews refused to go away and tested throughout the first half. In spite of that, Oxford stood stayed resolute and were good value for their lead at half-time.
That finally changed with an hour gone: Ryan Bowman got into a great position inside the United six-yard box and finished off a superb delivery from winger Elliot Bennett for the Shrewsbury equaliser.
After that, it was anyone’s game but it was Oxford who showed the desire and forced the issue in the final ten minutes yet again. Ryan Williams sprinted the length of the pitch and went down under the challenge of Bennett to earn a vital penalty for the visitors. Cameron Brannagan kept his calm from the spot and converted to win a huge three points for the Yellows, sending the travelling fans into raptures.
The game sees United sure up their play-off position. They stay fourth, two points above Sunderland in fifth and just five points off MK Dons and Wigan above them. A tough challenge awaits next Saturday when they welcome Ipswich to the Kassam but United have put themselves in a good place with eight games to go.
Image: Darrell Fisher