Oxford United came into this game on torrid form, with a 3-2 defeat to 10 man Southend being labelled as Michael Appleton’s lowest point in his career. Exeter however, have picked up form, most recently registering a 3-2 win over Mansfield and have been flirting with a place in the play-offs. The first half started with the ball predominantly in United’s possession and the lively O’Dowda was first to capitalise on an Exeter mistake but his pullback to Hoban was blocked. It was the U’s who were to break the deadlock, and after more tricky work from O’Dowd he saw his cross smashed home by Hylton who, in the meantime, picked up his fourteenth goal of the season. Pressure was continuously mounted by Oxford but no clear cut chances were created. This lack of product was costly as on 38′ a quick freekick was brilliantly headed down by Nicholson, and superbly finished from range on the volley by Aaron Davies. This was very harsh on Oxford as this was Exeter’s first shot on goal but nevertheless the Grecians were level going into half time. A familiar story for U’s fans who once again saw their team throw away a first half lead.

The second half played out completely differently to the first. The Grecians were dominant, more fluid and a completely juxtaposed side to the first half. Oxford, however, seemed to tire and were dominated in midfield. Despite this no chances were created by either side and the game became a flat affair. The fans however united on minute 55′ as a rapturous applause spread out across the stadium for lifelong Oxford fan Keith Pasfield, who tragically passed away earlier in the week. This boosted the atmosphere and the game responded positively. Interchanges between Long and Hylton resulted in substitute Roberts curling a shot into the hands of Hamon who spilled into the path of Hylton, but he was offside. The Grecians had their chances too, with Nichols forcing a good save from Clarke in a one-on-one situation. The resulting corner saw Clarke rather feebly flap at a cross, with the ball falling to Nicholls once more, who looped his effort over the advanced Clarke and into the back of the net. This was a horrible moment for Appleton, who could only stand and watch as choruses of boos rang strong throughout the Kassam. However, teenage starlet Roberts was on hand. On 92′, after superb build up play, the ball found its way to Roberts who checked inside and curled a speculative effort from 25 yards into the corner. Oxford’s saviour and perhaps even Appleton’s saviour stole a point at the death as the final whistle sounded moments after the restart.

Oxford United

 Ryan Clarke – Oxford’s most consistent player of recent years has struggled for form recently. Today continued that as his kicking was poor and he was largely at fault for Exeter’s second. 5.0
 Sam Long – Had a fairly solid game and looked positive going forward. His inexperience showed at times but the youngster showed good maturity to contain Davies and Woodman 6.0
 Johnny Mullins – Had a consistent game and was never troubled too much by Nichols and Cummins. However lapses in concentration, which have plagued the United defence recently, cost the team dearly. 6.5
 Jake Wright – Has not been at his best recently but showed a bit more solidity (apart from Exeter’s second) and proved to be back to his better self 7.0
 Jonathan Meades – Was constantly beaten by his man and his dispatch was poor. A very nervy performance from Meades. 4.0
 Danny Rose – Showed excellent work ethic in the first half but seemed to tire and the game passed him in the second 5.0
 Josh Ashby – The teenager made his professional debut and performed well. He played with maturity and retained a high pass completion rate throughout the game. He seemed to tire in the second half but showed excellent promise 7.0
 Josh Ruffels – Showed signs of creativity but the game passed him for large spells and he was not effective enough in midfield 6.0
 Callum O’Dowda – The tricky winger was superb in the first half and bagged an assist but a dead leg obtained early in the second half hindered him and he was consequently substituted 7.5
 Danny Hylton – His work rate and attitude was once again first class and he bagged his 14th goal of the season 8.0
 Pat Hoban – The Irishman bagged his first home start since joining the club and showed real hunger to get in the box. His fitness needs improving but Hoban showed real promise. 7.0

Substitutions

 James Roberts – The teenage wonder rescued the U’s after coming off the bench and scoring a superb equaliser in the 92′ minute 8.0
 Wes Burns – Was not on the pitch long enough to make an impact 5.0

 

Exeter City

 James Hamon – Was not tested an awful lot but was commanding from corners and effective at cancelling out crosses 7.0
 Scott Bennett – Had a good game supporting the wings going forward but had a tough day containing the lively O’Dowda 6.0
 Matt Oakley – The experienced centre half showed good composure and did well to cut out any threat from Hoban 7.0
 Jordan Moore-Taylor – Oakley’s counterpart showed flickers of nervousness and should have closed down Roberts for his goal 5.0
 Craig Woodman – Showed good tenacity getting forward and also defensive solidify. However, at times his dispatch was poor. 6.0
 Liam Sercombe – Caused problems for Meades all afternoon and showed good work rate. 7.0
 David Noble – Controlled the midfield in the second half and seemed to mop up every second ball. Good performance from Noble. 7.5
 Aaron Davies – Scored a fantastic goal in the first half and helped control the midfield in the second. 7.0
 Alex Nicholls – Scorer of the second goal but had a fairly quiet game, not troubling the U’s too much 6.0
 Tom Nichols – Game passed him for large spells and did not get involved in attack as much as he should have 6.0
 Graham Cummins – Proved to be a bit of a handful to the United defence and showed good link up play with the Exeter strikeforce 7.0

Substitutions

 Christian Ribeiro – Did not effect the game in any way when he came on but maintained solidity at the back 6.0
 Danny Butterfield – Fitted in well into the back four and will be extremely disappointed to concede so late on. 6.0
 David Wheeler – Slotted in nicely into midfield and helped sway the balance of pay in the Grecian’s favur 7.0

 

Man of the Match

Danny Hylton – His tenacity and work rate was something to cherish. Even when the game seemed lost, he did not give up and he was pivotal to United’s winner whilst also grabbing a goal for himself early on.  8.0

 


About Author

Aspiring sports journalist from Oxford. Also a lifelong supporter and season ticket holder of Oxford United. My job here is to supply brief match reports and player ratings of Oxford United players and the teams they oppose.