Thomas nets as U’s soar

The Football League Paper - - LEAGUE ONE - By Mark Mudie

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

PIC­TURE: Will Kilpatrick

EASY DOES IT: Gino Van Kes­sel puts Ox­ford 2-0 up

GO­ING IN: Josh Ruf­fels scores the third

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