FULL TIME: Oxford United 1-1 Charlton Athletic
Oxford United have finally turned their notoriously dodgy home form around this season, winning three and drawing one of their opening four home matches before yesterday. So I think we could be forgiven for going into this game feeling optimistic, despite Charlton's frightening looking squad.
The first chance of the afternoon fell to Oxford defender Chey Dunkley on four minutes. Chris Maguire whipped a pacy cross into the box which fell to Dunkley with the goal at his mercy but Declan Rudd denied his header with a plunging save to his left.
Lundstram was spraying passes around, Rothwell looked great on ball and our defence was looking solid, Skarz in particular impressing. However we lacked any sort of punch up front. I like Ryan Taylor but unfortunately you're not going to see the best of him as a lone striker. He is far more effective with a strike partner alongside him in a 4-4-2 formation. Taylor's isolation up front resulted in United only mustering a few chances in the first half. Luckily Charlton were facing a similar problem with Magennis looking slightly lost at the other end.
United recruited many players in the summer but the best of the lot so far has been the man between sticks, Simon Eastwood. He made a great save to deny tricky winger Ade Lookman on the stroke of half time. Lookman, who was subject to a £6m bid in the summer, snuck in behind the defence but Eastwood got out very quickly to deny the advancing youngster. Eastwood's string of excellent performances is firmly cementing his place as a fan's favourite at Grenoble Road.
You often see tight games decided by big decisions and on 54 minutes it looked like this game might be decided by a contentious penalty decision. A looping cross was swung in from the left, which looked as if it'd comfortably dealt with by Phil Edwards but as he prepared to clear, the ball struck his arm. There was no doubt that the ball hit his arm, however Edwards definitely received a sneeky shove in the back from one on their forwards just before the incident. Despite this the penalty was awarded and Eastwood couldn't keep Jackson's spot kick out. 1-0 Charlton.
A useful trait that Appleton's Oxford team possessed last season was an ability to bounce back from disappointments and it doesn't appear as if much has changed this season. Right from the kick-off, United looked determined to get themselves back into it and secure at least a point from the game.
United's gutsy response earned themselves a deserved reward a smidge over ten minutes after Charlton went ahead. Marvin Johnson released lively substitute Kane Hemmings with a through ball and he raced towards goal. Although you couldn't have blamed the former Dundee man for having a go himself, he unselfishly teed it up for Maguire coming on from the right who arrowed the ball into the corner. 1-1. GET IN!
This second half was far more intriguing than the first with both sides looking more dangerous going forward. The introduction of former Northampton player Ricky Holmes certainly added an extra spark to Charlton's play in the final third.
The best chance either side had to nick all three points fell to the Addicks. A superb ball in from the right was perfect for Josh Magennis, who powered a header towards goal but Eastwood managed to get a strong glove to it to deny the Northern Ireland international. Yet another fantastic save from the 27 year old shot stopper.
I think it's fair to say that United ended the game in control, despite not really creating a proper clear cut chance. The only real opening transpired with just a few minutes left on the brand-spanking new scoreboard. Liam Sercombe made a surging run forward with Hemmings offering support on the right but Sercombe held onto it too long and by the time he released it to Hemmings, the former Dundee striker had strayed into an offside position.
Fair result? I'd say so. Perhaps on another day we could have nicked all three but then again it could so easily have been a defeat had it not been for Simon Eastwood. Taking two points from two clubs who were playing in the Championship last season isn't bad going in my eyes and this will be a brilliant point if we can back it up with a win on Tuesday.
Man of the Match goes to Simon Eastwood. He made some crucial saves and I believe if either of our keepers from last season was in goal, we would have lost. He's not just saving shots, he's saving points for Oxford this season and we'd definitely be much further down the table without him.
Honourable mentions must go to Joe Skarz and John Lundstram as well, who both had excellent games. I was pleased with Lundstram in particular because he's had a rough start to the season but is starting to look like his old self again.
Despite all this, I'm sorry to say that I'm still not sold on this 4-2-3-1 formation that Appleton is going with at the moment. As I mentioned earlier, Taylor was totally isolated up front in the first half and this isn't a problem that just happened yesterday. It might actually be down to Liam Sercombe's unsuitability in the no10 role, a position that I think Chris Maguire would probably be more suited to. Whatever the issue is, I'd feel far more comfortable if we played a traditional 4-4-2. We actually switched to that later in the second half yesterday with Maguire moving into the middle alongside Hemmings and Rothwell going wide. In my opinion we looked far more threatening.
Our next opponents Southend are a wounded animal after a 4-0 drubbing at the hands of Northampton, which is just the latest in a string of below par displays from Phil Brown's team this season. Despite a less than impressive record at Roots Hall in recent years, we have a great chance to go and pick up our first away league win of the season.
See you at Roots Hall on Tuesday. Come on you yellows!