APPLETON: I KNEW LUTON WOULD CAVE
SUPER-SUB Pat Hoban bagged Oxford United a point with his injury-time strike and manager Michael Appleton never doubted the equaliser would arrive.
The striker was thrown on with 18 minutes remaining and his side trailing 2-0, following goals from Luke Wilkinson and Cameron McGeehan.
And, after Kemar Roofe pulled one back with a deflected shot, Hoban pounced on an error from Mark Tyler to equalise in stoppage time.
“The commitment and the endeavour that this group have got said everything in the last ten minutes,” said Appleton.
“Around 74-75 minutes mark I was saying if we could get one back before 80, I really fancy us. It got to 83 when we got the goal, but we were really confident then as we knew were on the front foot.
“We spoke about the last 20 minutes. It wasn’t in the plan to be two down, but if we were one down with 20 minutes to go, we certainly knew we’d come at them.
“The goals we conceded were disappointing, but we’ve got an absolute no blame culture here and we certainly won’t be pointing any fingers at people.
“We went behind, but I’m absolutely delighted we got back into it.”
The hosts had enjoyed by far the better of the early exchanges in a barnstorming opening 20 minutes as McGeehan fired over, while Craig Mackail-Smith was well denied by Sam Slocombe. Oxford gradually grew into the game, having chances of their own as Alex MacDonald, Liam Sercombe and Roofe were all denied by Tyler. The Hatters then took the lead on 43 minutes when Wilkinson, who had earlier thundered over from 25 yards, climbed highest to meet Paddy McCourt’s corner to head home.
He almost had a second, with Danny Hylton clearing his header off the line and Paul Benson nodding the rebound against the post from close range. Visiting keeper Slocombe then fumbled McGeehan’s shot inches wide, while Ryan Taylor was narrowly off target for United with a header of his own.
After finally regaining the ascendancy Luton looked like they would go on to secure three points when McGeehan showed great determination to slot low into the net after 69 minutes. But Oxford weren’t showing signs of giving up the ghost as Danny Rose whizzed inches wide, while centre half Johnny Mullins’ instinctive volley cannoned against the bar.
Roofe made it 2-1 on 83 minutes, before McGeehan fluffed a much easier chance from close range after Slocombe had parried Jonathan Smith’s low drive back out in front of him, with the former Norwich youngster blazing over.
And the young midfielder was made to pay for his profligacy as a deep cross wasn’t gathered by Tyler and Hoban eventually turned the ball over the line at the second attempt.
“We can’t do a lot about the first one, it’s football,” reflected Luton boss John Still. “Mark would 99 times out of 100 deal with the second one, but he didn’t and we have to take point.
“We had lots of good positions and opportunities as I was really pleased with how we played.
“We all make mistakes though, sometimes you don’t get punished for them, sometimes you do, Mark has been brilliant for us, so I haven’t got any problems with that.
“We said at half-time, we know they’re a decent side and would come at us, but that our way of playing would create chances.
“Sometimes you make errors and errors hurt you.”
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