East­wood’s shoot-out save sends Ox­ford to Wem­b­ley

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport Football -

Ox­ford United booked their place in the League One play-off fi­nal af­ter beat­ing Portsmouth in a penalty shoot-out.

Goal­keeper Si­mon East­wood’s su­perb save de­nied Cameron McGee­han as Ox­ford scored all of their five spot kicks.

Marcus Har­ness fired Portsmouth ahead in the 38th minute, but El­lis Har­ri­son scored an own goal in first-half added time as Ox­ford drew level.

Af­ter both sides failed to fin­ish the job in ex­tra time, East­wood palmed away McGee­han’s penalty and Cameron Bran­na­gan net­ted the win­ning spot kick to snatch a 5-4 shoot-out win at the Kas­sam Sta­dium.

“I’m full of ad­mi­ra­tion for the play­ers,” said Ox­ford man­ager Karl Robin­son. “When you think that I’ve had to sell my two best play­ers in Jan­uary and we came into this game with three or four strug­gling with in­juries, it’s in­cred­i­ble.

“I had asked a few peo­ple in the game who have been in big penalty shoot-outs for their ad­vice, and they passed that on, and through our sports psy­chol­o­gist, who was telling the play­ers to be com­posed and just be­lieve in them­selves.

“I’m just gut­ted for our fans who couldn’t be here to cel­e­brate it, and I’m gut­ted there wasn’t a full house in here to see this. But for Ox­ford United to be in the fi­nal is un­be­liev­able. Jamie Mackie’s in tears in the dress­ing room, and he got me goManch­ester too. As far as us and Pom­pey are con­cerned, we both fin­ished on 60 points, and we’ve played out three 1-1 draws in our meet­ings this sea­son, that shows how evenly matched we are.”

East­wood said: “I was feel­ing good with penal­ties. I only had to save one and the lads were great with theirs. We’re de­lighted we’ve got there [to the fi­nal]. It’s a strange sit­u­a­tion be­cause you want to cel­e­brate, but the job’s only half done.”

The match very nearly did not go be­yond the nor­mal 90 min­utes, but Ox­ford’s Robert Dickie headed nar­rowly off tar­get in the fi­nal few sec­onds of sec­ond-half stop­page time, from James Henry’s cross.

Portsmouth’s John Mar­quis – who had hit a post in nor­mal time – then nod­ded just wide in the sec­ond half of ex­tra time, af­ter Ox­ford’s Matty Tay­lor had seen a close-range shot blocked by James Bolton.

Portsmouth man­ager Kenny Jack­ett said: “We’ve been able to take con­trol by scor­ing the vi­tal first goal but we’ve not been able to cap­i­talise on it. With their goal, though I haven’t seen re­plays, ap­par­ently it’s just gone over [the line] – those are the small mar­gins. But I’ve got no qualms about goalline tech­nol­ogy.

“We’ve been in the play-offs two years in a row now. We need to dust our­selves down and try to go one bet­ter next sea­son and go up.”

Party time: Ox­ford’s play­ers cel­e­brate Cameron’s Bran­na­gan’s de­ci­sive spot-kick

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