WES IS ON TARGET TO HAUNT HIS OLD PALS
Thomas nets as U’s soar
THERE’S nothing quite like scoring against your former club and Wes Thomas duly came back to haunt Portsmouth and send Oxford soaring to the top of the embryonic League Two table.
Second-half goals from Thomas, who was at Fratton Park back in 2012, Czech new boy Gino van Kessel and Josh Ruffels sentenced poor Pompey to their first league defeat since winning promotion last season.
But U’s boss Pep Clotet was just as ecstatic with his miserly defence as Pompey failed to breach the solid backline.
“We built on our defence and used it as a platform to go forward,” said Clotet.
“I was happy at half-time but felt we had more to come.
“After we got the first goal Pompey opened up and made it easier for us.
“Although we are top of the table after two games I hope the fans understand that there is a lot of hard work to come.
“Hopefully they will understand when hard times come in the winter.”
Sought-after winger Marvin Johnson was handed a start after the club are thought to have turned down a £1million bid from Hull City this week.
“The same situation applies to what the chairman said on Wednesday – Marvin is not for sale,” explained Clotet.
“Apart from that I’m very happy with his performance, his attitude and his commitment.”
Oxford could have fallen behind in the 13th minute when Kyle Bennett saw his long-range effort turned behind by Simon Eastwood.
The first half was an open affair and it took a superb last-ditch tackle from Pompey defender Drew Talbot to deny Thomas on the halfhour mark after Jack Payne and James Henry had combined expertly.
Six minutes later Curtis Nelson scuffed a shot wide for the U’s after Portsmouth failed to clear a corner.
The south coast side thought they had taken the lead four minutes before half-time when Brett Pitman headed beyond Eastwood.
But Pitman, who netted twice on his debut in last weekend’s 2-0 win at home to Rochdale, was forced to
cut short his celebrations after being adjudged to have fouled Oxford defender Mike Williamson.
The U’s took the lead just two minutes after the restart, thanks to an error from Pompey goalkeeper Luke McGee.
Henry and Bruno Riberio combined down the right and when McGee spilled Henry’s shot, Thomas was on hand to tuck home.
There was an unusual substitution soon after when referee Graham Salisbury went off injured and was replaced by fourth official Marc Wilson.
The game continued to go from end to end and Henry was narrowly off target with an attempted chip after being teed up by Johnson.
Jonathan Obika was denied a second for the hosts when his shot was turned over but van Kessel wrapped up the points with a debut goal eight minutes from time.
Obika fed the Slavia Prague loanee down the left and heleft two Pompey defenders in a heap before brilliantly finding the net.
Ruffels rubbed salt in the Pompey wounds with Oxford’s third goal deep into stoppage time.
Payne carried the ball across the penalty area and slid in Ruffels, who rifled home beyond the helpless McGee.
Pompey boss Kenny Jackett said: “We were good first half not so good second.
“Oxford took advantage when were 1-0 down and the more we pushed the more open we were.
“The referee made a decision with the disallowed goal but we aren’t complaining. We didn’t take advantage of one-on-ones and we were hit on the break with the pace and power of their substitutes.
“Oxford sat deep and soaked up our pressure but we didn't do enough second half and we made it easy for them.”
HITTING THE TARGET: Wes Thomas celebrates after putting Oxford United ahead
EASY DOES IT: Gino Van Kessel puts Oxford 2-0 up
GOING IN: Josh Ruffels scores the third