Ah, football is back. Oxford got their pre-season campaign underway with a leisurely 2-1 win at sun-drenched Ardley United. The yellows fielded a separate XI in each half, allowing almost everyone to get 45 minutes under their belts. New signings Jonathan Meades, David Hunt, Tom Newey and Dave Kitson made their debuts with the returning Asa Hall and Danny Rose also featuring. In addition, trialists Matt Heath (previously of Colchester), Matt Bevans (Watford) and Kenzer Lee (West Ham) also got a run out.
No one expects to see a full-blooded contest in the first pre-season friendly of the summer, so it was little surprise that the game started off slowly with the Oxford players taking their time to get into a passing rhythm. Oxford, shooting down the considerable slope at Ardley's Playing Fields ground, had the first chance as Tyrone Marsh latched onto Sean Rigg's cross but could keep it down and the ball rocketed over the bar.
Ardley responded with the best chance of the half after some sloppy defensive work as Clarke was forced to rush out of his goal to meet a short backpass and, seizing the opportunity, Troy Bryan fired the ball towards the unguarded net and was unlucky to see his shot cannon back off the underside of the bar.
Oxford's defence were rarely troubled for the rest of the first half and although they created a few half-chances to take the lead, with Meades going close from a header and Marsh shooting into the keeper's arms, in truth neither side really looked like scoring in a pleasant but uneventful first half.
|Picture from @OUFCGoldenBoy|
Oxford's second half XI looked far more lively, with Dave Kitson and Callum O'Dowda standing out in particular. Kitson made an impression immediately, chasing down the Ardley goalkeeper and then squaring the ball to Alfie Potter whose deflected left-footed shot found the net to give Oxford the lead.
O'Dowda was looking lively out on the left, beating several defenders with a mazy run before crossing for Deane Smalley, but the ball was played just too far in front for the striker to reach it and finish what would have been a spectacular move.
Ardley seemed unable to get into the visitors' half despite the assistance of the slope but they drew level on one rare foray into the Oxford area after being awarded a soft penalty for a push. Ryan Brooks (brother of Jamie) fired home the equaliser.
Oxford continued to look the better side but despite spending a lot of time around the Ardley area they seemed unable to convert their possession into clear-cut chances. Smalley, who put himself about well all afternoon, was unlucky to see his curling effort tipped wide by the goalkeeper in the dying minutes, but finally got his reward from the resulting corner, escaping his man and heading powerfully home.
Minutes later the referee blew the final whistle and the Oxford fans who made up the vast majority of the 670 attendance went home happy. Ardley were the perfect opposition for the occasion – competitive but not overly physical and they gave us a thoroughly good workout. A good day all round.
|Picture from @maybejames|
Second half XI: Max Crocombe, Matt Bevans, Michael Raynes, Kenzer Lee, Tom Newey, Alfie Potter, Asa Hall, Danny Rose, Callum O'Dowda, Dave Kitson, Deane Smalley