Exeter City suffered a disappointing defeat on the road, conceding three to Oxford without response.
An early goal from Ruben Rodrigues put City on the back foot before two second-half penalties from Cameron Brannagan secured three points for the hosts.
Manager Gary Caldwell named one change from last weekend’s 1-0 league win against Cheltenham, with Harry Kite coming straight into the starting XI in his first appearance of the season following a summer injury.
Oxford took an early lead as Kyle Edwards found himself in space on the left-wing, putting in a low cross to find Rodrigues in even more space. An unmarked Rodrigues leapt forward and put Oxford 1-0 up with a powerful diving header.
City looked to respond quickly with some wing-play of their own. This time it did not prove to be as fruitful. Demetri Mitchell, who looked bright in the opening 15 minutes, whipped a venomous cross across the face of James Beadle’s goal. Although Will Aimson was unable to find an equaliser as the ball flew straight into his chest and rebounded over the Oxford bar.
Ten minutes later, Aimson gave away a free kick on the left-wing, along the touchline, ten yards out from the corner flag. A one-man Reece Cole wall stood between the ball and the goal, ensuring the free kick became a cross: A cross which Viljami Sinisalo gathered and quickly set City away on a counter. However, Sinisalo’s quick-thinking did not pay dividends after the counter-attack crescendoed with Kite smashing the ball wide.
After a frantic opening to the first-half, City were able to find a moment to breath – chaining together several composed passes in their own third. Composure quickly became complacency as Pierce Sweeney’s pass along the floor is intercepted by Kyle Edwards who found Bodin with enough space and time to get a scintillating shot off – met by an even more impressive diving save from Sinisalo to keep City in it.
Halfway through the first-half, Zak Jules became a thorn in the left-hand side of the Oxford defence. First, he galloped past every yellow shirt on his side of the pitch, winning City an unfruitful corner. A few minutes later, Jules popped up in a pocket of space, found by a needle-threading Sweeney throw-in, he was brought down to win a free kick in shooting range. Cole stood over the free kick, and despite hitting the ball with venom, the ball ricocheted against the Oxford wall, sapping any momentum it had – leaving the Oxford defenders able to gather and clear.
City’s best chance of the first-half began with a sweet, lobbed ball across the pitch from Reece Cole to the feet of Yanic Wildschut. Wildschut then took on the Oxford left-back with a burst of acceleration before striking a powerful blow against the near post.
Towards the end of the first-half, Oxford’s corner was delayed as Ryan Trevitt received treatment. After a moment of suspense, all anticipation built by the delay was soaked up by Sinisalo as he gathered Brannagan’s high ball. The last piece of action in the first-half came from a Sweeney cross beyond the back-post, headed back in by Jules for the Oxford keeper to gather. After two minutes of added time, the teams went in with one goal separating them.
City started the second-half on the front foot. Mitchell’s quick feet left the Oxford defence dizzy. Using both feet, Mitchell shimmied between defenders along the edge of the box before spinning and playing through Jules. The referee’s whistle calling a dubious foul on Mitchell was the only thing that stood between Jules and the Oxford goalkeeper.
Midway through the second half, Jules won a corner that was subsequently cleared by Marcus McGuane, sparking an Oxford counter-attack. Possession found its way to Stan Mills in dangerous territory, before Will Aimson smashed the ball away, winning City a free kick in the process. Later on, Mitchell was tripped 35-yards out. Cole stood over the freekick, forcing a save from Beadle, who was lucky there was a yellow shirt on the end of it to clear, forcing City to recycle.
City controlled possession in the final 15 minutes as Oxford defended attack after attack. However, their efforts were undone as City were caught on the counter and Will Aimson was caught out twice, giving away two penalties, both of which were converted by Brannagan, putting to bed any hopes City had of a late comeback.
Exeter City: Sinasalo, Jules, Aimson (C), Hartridge (Harper), Carroll, Mitchell, Trevitt (Watts), Cole (Cox), Wildschut (Scott), Kite (Taylor), Sweeney.
Subs: Woods, Fitzwater.
Oxford: Beadle, Brown, Thorniley, Moore (C), Brannagan, Bodin (Goodrham, McGuane, Rodrigues, Long, Mills (Murphy), Edwards (Leigh).
Subs: Eastwood, McEachran, Negru, Stevens.
Referee: Daniel Middleton
Attendance: 10022 (909 away)