Eastwood’s shoot-out save sends Oxford to Wembley
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