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Patched-up Oxford United defy the odds
Deane Smalley’s 116th-minute penalty was the only goal of a freezing night where the U’s had to change their game plan countless times.
Centre backs Michael Raynes (hip) and Johnny Mullins (knee) were ruled out before kick-off, so the visitors were forced to field a completely unfamiliar back four.
Full backs David Hunt and Tom Newey switched into the middle, while David Lynn and Matt Bevans came in for their senior debuts.
The threadbare squad was diminished even further as Danny Rose and Dave Kitson were forced off with minor problems, leaving the visitors fielding a patched-up youthful team in extra time, with players doing jobs in unaccustomed roles.
Lewis praised the way United handled the adversity.
“It was an amazing night, we are really proud of the boys,” the assistant manager said.
“It was a bit non-stop in the second half and extra time with people having to come off, but I think the manager and the staff are always alert.
“It seemed like so many things were going against us.
“Danny Rose and Kits came off and it was an unbelievably young side out there at the end.
“The character of the players is summed up by Tom Newey and David Hunt – they are both experienced, but were doing a great job at centre half when they are full backs.”
The build-up to the game was overshadowed by manager Chris Wilder’s interview for the vacant Portsmouth job.
He was not available to speak after the game and although Lewis did not want to comment on the situation, he felt the result showed it had not affected the players.
“We have said it before the players are very focused in training and they just don’t seem to know when they are beaten,” he said.
“The club have made a statement a couple of days ago and it’s just between the manager and the chairman.
“We have no say in that really – we have a lot of games coming up so we will just worry about that.”
Smalley was thrilled to grab his seventh goal of the season, but singled out the young players for special attention.
He said: “There are six or seven first-team players out and it just shows what we’re about as a club with all the youngsters coming in and they have done themselves proud.
“In the end I was playing in centre midfield, it’s full credit to the players, the manager, the staff, everyone around the club. It just shows how versatile we all are.”
l Match report: Pages 62-63
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