The Kassam Stadium hosted a highly contested and fiery affair when the U’s welcomed the Hatters on Saturday afternoon. Oxford were buoyant coming into this game after a well-fought victory away to high-flyers Stevenage ending a torrid run of form. Promotion contenders Luton however, have had a slight blip in form of late, registering 4 draws in their last 5 games so were looking to get back to winning ways.

The game began with Luton creating the first chance. Ryan Hall, making his debut after signing from Rotherham last week, burst into the penalty area forcing a fine save from Clarke and the rebound fell kindly to Stockley whose shot was blocked once more by the feet of the onrushing Clarke. The game became fiery and explosive. Oxford retained majority of possession amidst the heavy tackles and innocuous elbows and almost found themselves ahead when Pat Hoban was put through by Hylton but his one-on-one effort was turned past the post by Tyler. Luton were to break the deadlock however, as on 39′ a mazy run by Hall resulted in Stockley prodding home his centre. Oxford fans will feel hard done by as they feLt a foul was committed by McNulty on Hylton just moments before. A goal had certainly been coming in this game but it has to be said that this was against the run of play but the U’s were not going to give up. Just 6 minutes later, United found themselves level through Johnny Mullins. The centre-half doubled his goal tally for the season after goals in successive games, with the ball landing at his feet after a scramble following a corner which he blasted home. This signalled the end of the first half which was signed off in dramatic fashion.

The second half did not take long to get going. Again Oxford saw most of the possession and it was Joe Skarz who supplied a lofted cross to the back post which was met by debutante Alex MacDonald who failed to direct his header downwards from an acute angle. Oxford continued their surge of pressure when MacDonald let fire from 25 yards and his shot was unconvincingly spilled by Tyler in the Hatters goal, but much to his relief it went wide of the mark. Just 2 minutes later Oxford were at it again. This time O’Dowda was provider who clipped the ball superbly to the unmarked Mullins, who from 8 yards could not find the target. It began to feel like another one of those days for United and this was all but confirmed on 61′. Alex MacDonald squared for Hoban who powered a shot home into the gaping, open net but the Yellows striker was deemed offside.  The game levelled off after this and Luton came back into the game. New signing Oduwa caused the United defence a lot of problems with his immense pace and power and late on won a free kick in a very dangerous position. The free kick was struck low and hard and found its way through the wall. Clarke spilled and the rebound seemed inevitable to be converted by Cullen but miraculously he dragged his effort wide from a yard out. A get out clause for United it seemed and this all but signified the end of the game. It will seem a point gained for Hatters fans but certainly 2 points dropped for U’s fans in this fantastic spectacle which played out completely differently to what almost everyone expected.

Oxford United

 Ryan Clarke – Was troubled little throughout the game but stepped up to the plate when needed and made some vital saves, particularly in the opening exchanges 7.0
 Richard Brindley – Showed great tenacity and drive going forward. He demonstrated good vision and range of passing. He was forced off after 70 minutes however after sustaining an impact injury which put a dampener on a very promising home debut 7.5
 Johnny Mullins – Scored his second goal of the season and was defensively sound. Very impressive performance from ‘The Magnet’ 8.0
 Jake Wright – Seems to have shaken off any criticism experienced in recent weeks and was back to his old self. He put in a marvellous shift 7.5
 Joe Skarz – Skarz has registered 20 appearances in the Championship this season so it was a surprise when Appleton signed him permanently from Rotherham. From the first minute the 25 year-old showed his class and experience and helped contain the lively Whalley exceptionally. 8.0
 Michael Collins – Collins performance was simply superb. He showed excellent graft and tenacity in midfield whilst also maintaining a high ball retention rate. Classy performance from the central midfielder 9.0
 Josh Ruffels – Ruffels had a quieter game to his counterpart Collins but nevertheless he put in a positive performance 7.0
 Alex MacDonald – The debutante had a very good game. He was the epicentre of the majority of all United’s attack and put in a very good shift down the left flank 7.5
 Danny Hylton – Another terrific performance from Oxford’s player of the season. His work ethic is superb and his contributions in the final third were fantastic. 8.0
 Callum O’Dowda – The youngster has had a ripe run of form and he continued this on Saturday. He was a nuisance to the fullbacks and really put in a great performance 9.0
 Pat Hoban – The Irish striker has merged into this team with no problem at all and his performances are getting better and better each time. Another super performance from Hoban and he will be scratching his head to how he has not opened his Oxford United account 8.0

Substitutions

 James Roberts – Unlucky not to score almost immediately after coming on but after that he failed to contribute as much as he perhaps should have 6.0
 Sam Long – Looked slightly out of depth marking Oduwu but held his own and prevented Oxford conceding a second 6.0

 

Luton Town

 Mark Tyler – Had nervous spells in the game which nearly cost his team after almost spilling a MacDonald shot into his own net. However he regained his composure and pulled off a couple of fantastic saves 6.0
 Michael Harriman – The pacey wingback had a good game and made it difficult for O’Dowda in the first half. However in the second half, he had tough time against the U’s winger and was put under a lot of pressure. 7.0
 Steve McNulty – McNulty is not the most graceful player ever but he is commanding and strong. He showed that today and made it difficult for Hoban and Hylton 7.0
 Luke Wilkinson – Had a tough time containing Hylton in particular and had a bit of a nervous game 6.0
 Jake Howells – Had a tricky time against MacDonald and most of Oxford’s attack came from his wing. Bit of a liability. 5.0
 Shaun Whalley – Didn’t cause Skarz too much trouble but supplied the cross for the first goal and troubled the U’s defence with a few challenging crosses 7.0
 Jonathon Smith – Didn’t get involved too much and spent most of the game watching the ball go over his head as it was played directly to the strikers 5.0
 Nathan Doyle – Showed good hunger whilst out of possession but couldn’t seem to muster any inspiration going forward 6.0
 Ryan Hall – Hall was lively in the opening exchanges but the game passed him for large spells. His replacement Oduwa was much more influential on the game 6.0
 Jayden Stockley – Opened his account for the Hatters with a fine finish in the first half. However the centre forward did not contribute an awful lot to the game 6.5
 Andy Drury – Had his best spell of the game in the last ten minutes but was largely ineffectual throughout 6.0

Substitutions

 Nathan Oduwa – Powerful, athletic and pacey. The winger caused all sorts of problems once coming on and made positive contributions to the Luton attack 8.0
 Mark Cullen – Didn’t create too much for his side whilst on the pitch and missed a glorious opportunity at the death which was then given offside. 6.0

 

Man of the Match

Michael Collins – Had a terrific game. He dominated the midfield with his hard graft and tenacity. He created a lot going forward and caused Luton all sorts of problems 9.0

 


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.