Oxford United: Good Things Come in Threes

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What a week for Oxford United. On Tuesday night, the Us brushed away Championship side, Brentford, in the first round of the Capital One Cup after recording a comprehensive 4-0 victory at Griffin Park. Then, on Thursday, the League Two side announced the signing of former Everton trainee and England Under 20 international, John Lundstram. Further still, on Saturday, the Us took to the field to take on Luton Town at Kenilworth Road, coming from two goals down to earn a draw.

 

Oxford United: Good things come in threes

Brentford – Oxford United travelled to Griffin Park on Tuesday night, with a frustrating 1-1 draw against Crawley Town still very much on their mind. The Us dominated large spells of the league game, but conceded an early second half goal against the run of play. That said, the goal spurred the Us on; they went on to score a well taken equaliser, before squandering late chances to win the game.

The Capital One Cup, particularly the early rounds, is seen as a selection dilemma for many clubs. From an Oxford point of view, the Us could have fielded a strong side; the option they decided to take, as it happens, in the hope to reach the latter rounds and receive higher prize money as a result. For lower league clubs, this could be beneficial. The other option is to field a less experienced side; the decision that Brentford opted for, largely due to an important league fixture the following weekend. To be honest, I highly expected Michael Appleton to choose the latter. The Us faced a tough test when they visited Luton at the weekend, whilst, for the Bees, it backfired as their weekend fixture was postponed anyway.

The Us began with the same starting eleven that drew with Crawley, which included the solid backline of Joe Skarz, Jake Wright, Johnny Mullins and George Baldock. Alongside these men, Danny Rose, who set up Danny Hylton to equalise against Crawley, and Liam Sercombe, who scored his and Oxford’s first goal against Brentford, in the centre of midfield, also took to the field, while Alex MacDonald and Kemar Roofe played wide, with Ryan Taylor and Danny Hylton leading the line.

As it quite clearly proved, this was a good choice from Appleton; Sercombe, Hylton and Roofe, with the latter netting an absolute peach from the best part of 35 yards, gave the Us a comfortable 3-0 lead within just twelve minutes.

The other side of the coin, however; if Oxford were to have lost the game, or even picked up an injury to a key player, and then went on to lose at Luton, comments would have been made regarding Appleton’s selection. But, it need not matter; the Us produced the shock of the first round, also becoming the first fourth tier side to score four goals in the first round against a second tier side.

 

Lundstram – Less than 36 hours after that famous victory, the Us announced the signing of former Everton trainee John Lundstram.

The 21-year-old midfielder, who had previously had gained Football League experience following loan spells at Blackpool in the Championship, and Yeovil Town, Doncaster Rovers, Leyton Orient and Scunthorpe United in League One. In addition, the midfielder has also earned over 25 caps at England youth level, playing for the Under 17, 18, 19 and 20 squads.

Given the amount of talent Appleton has at his disposal in midfield, Lundstram adds further competition. With the likes of Rose and Sercombe seemingly already cemented in regular position, the arrival of the former Everton man adds pressure to Michael Collins, as well as a number of talented youth options also at the club.

 

Luton Town – On Saturday, the Us took to the field to face another of the pre-season favourites, Luton Town. But, it didn’t begin how the visitors would have expected.

The Us found themselves a goal down by half-time, after Luke Wilkinson headed home from a corner. The hosts, who, like Oxford, had drawn their opening game, were soon two goals up when midfielder Cameron McGeehan’s low drive beat the Us’ keeper, Sam Slocombe.

But, there was an extremely high team spirit at the Kassam Stadium; as the game entered the final ten minutes and the Luton fans were signing; “You might as well go home”, the U’s pulled one back. Kemar Roofe, who scored a 35-yard lob on Tuesday night, netted again, but, in a less exuberant manner as his shot deflected into the goal. Then, with time running out, substitute, Patrick Hoban, poked home the equaliser deep into stoppage time to send the travelling yellow army into raptures.

Okay, so, Oxford are still awaiting their first League win of the season. However, after an impressive display, despite the frustration in front of goal against Crawley, an emphatic win over Brentford in the Cup, and coming from two goals down against one of the promotion favourites, it’s been an impressive week for Oxford United. It has been equally impressive off the field; with the players at Michael Appleton’s disposal, in addition to the arrival of Lundstram, Us fans have plenty to be optimistic about over the coming months.

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