Oxford United 2 Norwich City U21s 1 - Young Canaries give League One side a fright
PUBLISHED: 21:46 03 September 2019 | UPDATED: 22:12 03 September 2019
Shae Huthinson was so nearly the hero as a young Norwich City Under-21s team gave League One side Oxford United an almighty scare in the EFL Trophy.
The 18-year-old striker had fired the Canaries ahead in the 63rd minute at the Kassam Stadium, only for former Liverpool midfielder Cameron Brannagan to smash in an equaliser in the 77th minute and Shandon Baptiste to curl in a winner for the U's with five minutes remaining.
The hosts - managed by former MK Dons and Charlton boss Karl Robinson - made nine changes to their starting XI from the 3-3 home draw with Coventry which kept them above the relegation zone at the weekend.
The Canaries opted not to field the two over-age players allowed in their under-21 team, which had a rather youthful side fielded thanks to the absence of youth internationals including Adam Idah and Aidan Fitzpatrick.
The first scare of the night came after City right-back Jordan Thomas had chopped down Anthony Forde on the right in the eighth minute. The forward took the free-kick himself but left-back Rob Nizet got in the way to end the danger.
It was Norwich midfielder Tom Scully with the best chance of the opening stages though, after good play on the left from Josh Martin, whose cross was nudged away from Hutchinson but Scully seized on the loose ball to hit a snap shot just wide of the right-hand post from the edge of the area.
The U's started to take control but were struggling to find their rhythm, with a succession of poor balls into the danger zone.
Baptiste's low cross from the left was cleared by Famewo for a corner in the 25th minute and a quick short-corner allowed Forde to have a blast from the left of the box, which was palmed clear by Billy Johnson.
It looked like the visitors were starting to struggle with the pace but Nizet blasted a low deflected effort across the face of goal after good work from Martin, and Ciaren Jones couldn't make contact with Scully's corner at the near post.
There were plenty of nice touches, with former Arsenal trainee Martin in particular looking to possess a box of tricks, but the final ball was lacking.
Martin prodded Hutchinson into the left channel after a slick attack from City in the 34th minute and the striker could only fire wide under pressure, with Oxford keeper Jack Stevens and defender Sam Long colliding and needing treatment afterwards.
Both were fine to continue and after the restart there was a worrying moment as Canaries keeper Johnson came out to intercept a long ball forward and only managed to head to Forde on the right, but tenacious Scottish midfielder Reece McAlear nipped in to prevent the shot.
Saul Milovanovic chopped at the heels of Rob Hall in the 42nd minute and the midfielder got up to taker the free-kick himself, but his 25-yard effort was collected by Johnson.
There were more chances for Oxford before the break, with Famewo in the right place to deflect a Hall shot behind in injury-time. Johnson pushed the corner away but Rob Dickie kept the chance alive and Baptiste curled an effort towards the top-right corner from the edge of the box that the City keeper tipped wide.
Johnson made a fine stop less than a minute after the break as well, getting down to his right sharply to parry a powerful shot from home striker Dan Agyei.
McAlear had a wild swing at a shot in the 49th minute after Martin had made good progress on the right and swung in a cross, only for former Beccles Town keeper Johnson to be needed again within a minute, superbly tipping over a close-range header from Agyei.
Hall's pot shot rippled the side netting for Oxford in the 55th minute but it was the Canaries who claimed the lead, after a spell of attacking intensity. It was Hutchinson slotting past Stevens in the 63rd minute, after a surge forward from French midfielder William Hondermarck before prodding the striker clean through, who rolled into the bottom-right corner before wildly celebrating with his team-mates.
Hall wasted an opportunity to hit back for the hosts with just over 20 minutes left, when he got a header horribly wrong at the back post, but a double substitution paid off for Oxford in the 77th minute, An uncontested drop-ball was given to the U's after a clash of heads and Brannagan took full advantage, setting himself up to thrash a low effort beyond Johnson from the edge of the box to equalise.
City right-back Jordan Thomas escaped strong penalty calls for a challenge on Hall soon after and Baptiste broke visiting hearts in the 85th minute, after Norwich had failed to clear their lines, curling across Johnson and into the top-right corner for a 2-1 lead - to save Oxford from an embarrassing defeat.
City's next Group J encounter is the trip to Portsmouth, which has been moved to a 12.30pm kick-off at Fratton park on Saturday, September 14 - when the hosts had been due to face Bury - ahead of a trip to Crawley Town on Tuesday, October 1.
Oxford: Stevens, Long, Dickie, Mousinho, Berkoe, Hanson, Baptiste, Hall, Fosu (Sykes 58), Forde (Brannagan 66), Agyei (Lofthouse 66). Unused subs: Eastwood, Moore, Allardyce, Goodrham
Goals: Brannagan (77), Baptiste (85)
Norwich U21s: Johnson; Thomas, Jones, Famewo (C), Nizet; Milovanvoic, McAlear (Khumbeni 90+3); Martin (Jackson 90+3), Scully, Hondermarck (Dickson-Peters 83); Hutchinson. Unused subs: Rose (GK), Dronfield
Goals: Hutchinson (63)
Attendance: 1,084 (152 away)
Referee: Chris Sarginson