This was the “O´s” second pre season friendly this week as they defeated recently relegated and EvertonÂ´s opponents tomorrow Birmingham City 2-0 at the Kassam Stadium with goals in the last 20 minutes from Ryan James and Alfie Potter.
Everton had a few team members back from the States to bolster the squad that were second best and well deserved losers to Southport last Saturday in the Liverpool Senior cup. This was a first time for an Everton team to play at this ground which has been the home to Oxford United since2001 and leaving behind the Manor Ground where EvertonÂ´s fortunes changed when a mis placed Kevin Brock back pass seemed to change EvertonÂ´s history on that bitterly cold night back in January 1984
The Kassam stadium has only three sides as behind one goal is a car park and wooden fences with no terracing. Oxford United kicked off and Everton playing with a 4-4-2 formation and attacking the home end, were the team that attacked first as early as two minutes in when Ross Barkley played the ball left to Gueye who had a shot on goal then Vellios went close seconds later. Everton were also awarded the first free kick of the evening for a foul on Vellios which Garbutt took and nothing was to come of it.
Femi Orenuga who was playing in a wide right role played a lovely cross only for Dean Smalley to chest neatly to Ryan Clarke in the home sideÂ´s goal. Everton were playing some neat and tidy football from the back with Adam Forshaw showing plenty of confidence and utilising the back four with his distribution, they were by far the better looking side in the early stages controlling it well. Forshaw played a quality ball through to McAleny as Everton attacked only for the youngster to shoot just wide but the signs were encouraging.
7 minutes on the clock and Mustaffi who was partnering Duffy at the heart of the defence combined to win a corner and as a result of the corner Vellios was beaten by the pace of the ball as he could not get enough contact on the ball to put the Blues ahead.
Gueye came forward from the left to conjure up some magic with a teasing cross only for Clarke to catch with ease. Oxford. The home side came forward after 12 minutes with an exquisite ball played through EvertonÂ´s defence by Asa Hall to James Constable only for the linesman to see that the forward was in an offside position. Mustafi made a great tackle on Potter near the corner flag and it was a precise and well timed tackle which won applause from the Everton fans in the North stand. Barkley was picking up the ball in his own half to get things moving showing signs as to why David Moyes can see a future for this lad. 4 minutes later Oxford made a substitution when Pitman replaced Smalley which I can only think was an injury.60 seconds later Gueye carved out a chance for Vellios and again came to nothing.
Adam Davies in the Everton goal reacted well when out of nothing from a Michael Duberry long ball Duffy seemed to have it covered only for an onrushing attacker to close in which Davies dealt with.
Everton were attacking a lot down the left hand side and on several occasions Garbutt was floating in some decent crosses but the “O´s” snuffed out the danger. Garbutt defended well when Oxford attacked down the right and a move from them involved three players was blocked from a shot by Damian Batt to give the home side a corner kick which Davies dealt with from the delivery.
Tom Craddock was hungry to make a name for himself only for Tyias Browning to come to EvertonÂ´s rescue with a solid challenge and played the ball safely back to Davies.
25 minutes into the first half and Barkley hit an effort from distance that went well over ClarkeÂ´s goal, Clarke again made a good catch from a Gueye cross and as much as this was a decent game of football neither side put the goalkeepers into making any serious saves . Vellios again who was always available from crosses met a header when a combination from Gueye and Garbutt but could not finish. Again Forshaw was showing good movement trying to create an opening for the visitors and this display was far better than their last outing at Southport 6 days ago.
McAleny was unlucky with a move that was started by Forshaw whose pass found Garbutt to flight a high and good looking ball to Vellios once again whose header was thwarted McAleny shot just wide as Everton got nearer to breaking the deadlock.
Duffy seemed to be coping well with the long high balls Oxford defenders were punting forward but the Irishman was equal and strong. As the half drew to a close Mustafi this time had to stand and be counted who blocked a shot down the right from ConstableÂ´s attack which went out for corner. As the ball was swung in from the kick Davies was on his toes and the ball seemed to swing towards the goal and he tipped it over the bar. Again from the cross Mustafi finally got the ball away with a header.
Everton were awarded a free kick before half time when the lively Garbutt was brought down on the edge of the box. Garbutt and Gueye stood over the ball and when the free kick was eventually taken by Garbutt, Barkley was a danger but Oxford managed to clear the danger once more. Orenuga had EvertonÂ´s last chance of the first half only for Clarke to save and send both teams in at the break goalless.
There was some good performances in the first half from Garbutt, Mustafi Forshaw, Orenuga,Barkley, and Gueye
Oxford United 0 Everton XI 0
As the second half emerged there seemed to be three changes one was a change of goalkeeper for Oxford replacing Clarke with former Chester, Hereford and Bury goalkeeper Wayne Brown and Everton replaced Vellios with Joao Silva, the third being a change of footwear as Gueye changed his boots. Orenuga made the first attack of the second half but the ball moved too quick for him as his pass ran out of play as Everton kicked towards the open end.
Barkley had the best chance of the game for the visitors on 55 minutes when he went through from the halfway line with a spirited run keeping his head as Brown was left with a one on one, Barkley seemed to do everything right when he delicately chipped the oncoming Brown only for the ball to go cruelly just wide of BrownÂ´s left hand post when the blues fans were almost certain they had took the lead.
OxfordÂ´s Asa Hall won the ball in a good tackle with Orenuga as the home side went on the attack down the left flank whose pass found his team mate and Davies foiled the hopes with an easy save. Barkley seemed to be at the heart of everything the blues seemed desperate to be rewarded for some good entertaining football and although they hadnÂ´t forced the home keeper into making any serious saves a goal didnÂ´t seem to be far away
As the visitors never seemed to be troubled up to this point as the defence snuffed out any threat and holding firm, Constable put the “O´s” one up with an unstoppable shot from distance as Mustafi failed to clear and unfortunately for him his header was not powerful enough only for Constable to drive home and any keeper in the land would have not saved it. Mustafi slammed the ground with his hand obviously frustrated to conceding the goal. The goal scorer was immediately replaced by number 18 Josh Payne as Everton restarted the game hoping to get back into it and find a way to grabbing an equaliser perhaps. Duffy tried in vain with a header from OrenugaÂ´s free kick who was having a good second half and at this point was making the way for a man of the match nomination.
Jake Bidwell was introduced with 35 minutes remaining replacing McAleny. Everton won a corner hoping to snatch something and as Gueye took the short corner from the right to Barkley his pass found Orenuga who made a pass into the path of the fresh faced Bidwell whose snapshot had enough power on it to send in up the M40 northbound. Oxford seemed look the better of the two sides after getting their noses in front and were looking like a league two side than an ordinary outfit in the first half. It was now becoming an end to end affair, Duffy made a good clearance with a strong header from a Batt cross.
18 minutes remained when Gueye turned on the half way line only to be deprived of an outcome when he was brought down on the edge of the box after making a spirited run and cries from the Everton fans of “OFF, OFF” but the cries were ignored by referee John Farries .The visitors hoped to take advantage of the free kick they were awarded but before the free kick could be taken Everton replaced Barkley with Lundstram and then Oxford made a double substitution and it seed to take an age as Everton so much wanted to take this free as the visiting fans were getting restless thinking the home side were doing all they could to delay proceedings. EvertonÂ´s substitute BidwellÂ´s effort was hit well over the bar as the ball fell to him from the resulting free kick as the seconds were agonisingly ticking away.
Alan Stubbs brought on Hallam Hope who replaced Gueye on75 minutes and he went upfront with Silva as Bidwell went at full back and Garbutt on the left hand side of midfield. Duffy played a long ball forward with ten minutes left with Hallam Hope being the recipient of the pass only this time it was his turn to be fouled and get another free kick in EvertonÂ´s favour. Man of the match Orenuga stood over the ball with Garbutt only for GarbuttÂ´s delivery to find John Lundstram in the box who turned but failed to capitalise on the chance
Time was nearly up as fans were making their way to the exits as Everton had another throw of the dice asThe Toffees won a corner as Orenuga and Hope Combined together to put Oxford under pressure., Garbutt whose short corner found Orenuga played the ball straight back to Garbutt who then put his cross over but was cleared from OxfordÂ´s defence. The home side put their opposition under the cosh holding onto the lead and although Everton were behind they were desperate not to concede another goal only for some good defending. Mr Farries blew his whistlefor full time which was greeted by the Oxford faithful with cheers and Everton must take heart from the performance as it was a much improved from their last one.
Orenuga was man of the match but had good competiton from a few good performances he seemed to trouble Oxford with his pacy runs and always looked dangerous.