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Oxford Utd 1 Harriers 2 - FA Trophy 4th rd

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Date: 20-02-10gif Venue: Kassam Stadiumgif att: 3358gif away fans: 417
Harriers put another one over Oxford

gifReport by Philip Lench
The Harriers progressed one step nearer to another visit to a FA Trophy final at Wembley Stadium with this fine away win over an Oxford Utd side that lacked the interest or the urgency to win.  Their fans had been making it plain all week that they didn't give a damn about the so called Tinpot Cup and would rather concentrate on winning the League and getting back into the big time.

Admirable thoughts but one wonders if they'll actually be good enough to achieve that after yet another below par showing from them.  It also crossed my mind that we do have a Trophy tradition with our club whereas their fans do not and are never likely to with the attitude that they have.

There was a new face in the starting eleven for us with the on loan keeper Ross Atkins making his debut in place of the injured Dean Coleman and in front of the reserve keeper Jas Singh.  On the bench was a Harriers legend in Marcus Bignot who re-signed for us last week.  The other new signing, James Lawrie, was disappointingly no where to be seen.

In bright, but cold, sunshine the game kicked off with the Harriers playing towards the home end.  We were the first to make any kind of headway when Darryl Knights fired over Billy Turley's goal from close range after being set up by Dean Bennett.  It took until eight minutes in for Utd to show for goal when the former Harrier James Constable managed to break free but just as he was about to strike Duane Courtney robbed him of the ball and cleared to safety.

On nine minutes Atkins showed just why he is so highly rated and what a find he was by Steve Burr.  Simon Clist sent in a hard, rasping shot that Ross dived to his right to keep out and pushed the ball away but only as far as Jamie Cook.  Incredibly he flung himself the other way and dived on the ball once more.  A truly great double save.

A minute later and we were in the lead.

Utd were awarded a corner but wasted it by giving possession straight to the Harriers.  Courtney swept the ball away to Knights who then released Dean Bennett to enter the area and, evading a string of tackles, slid the ball towards Brian Smikle to convert easily beyond Turley.

We could have gone two up a few minutes later but Damian Spencer headed just wide from a John Finnigan free kick.  Just after another former Harrier, Mark Creighton, came close with a header that just clipped the bar.

Following that the play seemed to get bogged down in midfield and there were no more clear cut chances for either side.
  HT: 0 - 1
The second period started a bit better from an Oxford perspective but not so for the Harriers.  Utd came out looking for an early second half goal to enable them to get back into the game and we, frankly, looked lethargic.  Does someone feed them cream cakes at half time?

Utd had also made a halftime substitution with Ashley Cain, on loan from Coventry City, coming on in place of Cook.  Creighton should really have got his side back onto level terms when he headed wide from a corner with almost an open goal in front of him to aim for.

We also had a chance of scoring in front of an almost open goal when Spencer broke free and made his way towards goal.  With only the keeper to beat he seemed to stop just as he reached the area and then forgot which foot he was going to use next.  Turley reached down, picked the ball up, the chance was gone and Spencer looked stupid.

A couple of minutes later Oxford made another change to the line-up with the diminutive Sam Deering coming on in place of Simon Clist.  This was the lad that looked the most dangerous for them in the 0-0 draw here two weeks ago.  He wasn't involved but a few minutes later Utd pulled the goal back.

Constable and Creighton broke free and surged into the area.  Martin Riley managed to get the ball and tried to play it back to Atkins but the new keeper was too close to him and couldn't get possession of the ball and it ran free for Matt Green to slot the ball into the empty net.  We have seen far too much indecision from Riley in recent weeks and it's time it was addressed by the manager.  If in doubt clear it, don't play it back to the keeper in the area when you're surrounded by opposing players.

We bought on Marcus Bignot straight after the goal and it looked like we were going to go more defensive, shut up shop and take them back to Aggborough for a replay.  A few minutes after that change we made another and on came Robbie Matthews in place of Darryl Knights.  Dazzler had started the game well but this half Oxford seemed to have got wise to him and shut him out.

Even though Utd were seeing more of the ball now they still weren't doing much with it and couldn't seem to be able to get a clear view of goal.  Our strong defence played a big part in this and it's thanks to them that we were still on level terms.  Probably the closest they came was when Green had a shot and hit Creighton instead of the target.

Eight minutes from the end of the game we got the all important winner.

Spencer took the ball towards the corner flag and tried to play it off a defender to claim a corner but the ball skimmed off the defender towards Brian Smikle.  He controlled the ball on the bye line then on the turn threaded a ball through to Matthews for the tall guy to power into the top of the net.

Cue jubilation from the 417 Harriers fans and screams to hold on.  We needed to hold on because straight away Utd went looking for another equaliser as the referee signalled four minutes of extra time.  Only he knows where that came from because neither physio ever came onto the pitch.

Finally the whistle did blow and we were into the semi-finals of the Trophy.  News came through later that Salisbury had beaten Tamworth so any hopes of a local pairing had gone through the window and later we heard that Stevenage had scored in the last minute of seven extra minutes in their game at home to Workington.

Barrow and York play on Tuesday night, meaning our game at Barrow is now off, and so this will mean who ever we play it will be a bit of a trek to one of the legs.
  FT: 1 - 2

 Goal for Oxford: M Green 65
 Goals for Harriers: Smikle 16, Matthews 86


The Harriers Online MotM is:

gif Brian Smikle
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Oxford Utd  subs   cards      Harriers  subs   cards 
Turley     Atkins  
Batt     Courtney  
Sandwith     Baker  
Bulman     Finnigan  
Wright   Caines  
Creighton     Riley  
Chapman   McPhee  
Cook gif   Bennett gif  
Constable     Spencer  
M Green     Knights gif  
Clist gif     Smikle  
SUBS:       SUBS:    
Clarke     Singh  
Hargreaves     Matthews gif  
Cain gif     Hadley  
Deering gif     Bignot gif  
Day     Sharpe  

REFEREE:
Mr B Malone
Wiltshire





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