Oxford United end season with draw against Doncaster

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Billy Bodin celebrates after scoring Oxford United's goal against Doncaster Rovers Picture: David Fleming
Billy Bodin celebrates after scoring Oxford United's goal against Doncaster Rovers Picture: David Fleming

OXFORD United’s season ended with an underwhelming draw against relegated Doncaster Rovers at the Kassam Stadium.

Billy Bodin bundled home to give the U’s a first-half lead, but the visitors refused to go down without a fight and Josh Martin equalised from long range midway through the second period.

United fielded a much-changed line-up on a low-key afternoon, with an impressive full debut from teenage centre back James Golding one of the few highlights.

The U’s end the campaign eighth in Sky Bet League One on 76 points, seven shy of the play-off places.

Karl Robinson warned he would pick a team with next season in mind and the U’s line-up made for interesting reading.

Mark Sykes was left out of the squad with his contract expiring this summer, while Herbie Kane was sidelined with the groin injury he sustained at Rotherham United last Saturday.

Elliott Moore was also unavailable after his wife went into labour this morning and Cardiff City loanee Ciaron Brown dropped to the bench.

In came 17-year-old centre back Golding for his full debut on the left of a back three, while Marcus Browne made his first home start since returning to the club in January.

Meanwhile, Steve Seddon featured for the first time since March 12 and Marcus McGuane lined-up alongside Cameron Brannagan in midfield, with the latter appointed captain on his 150th league start for the club.

There was also room on the bench for Gatlin O’Donkor after the striker’s prolific season in United’s Under 18s.

The atmosphere was predictably subdued after the two teams were unable to take their respective promotion and survival bids to the final day.

Bodin fashioned United’s first chance after seven minutes when he sold a dummy at the byline and clipped a cross towards the penalty spot, but Brannagan hit it on the rise and could not keep the ball down.

Doncaster forced a succession of early corners and the unmarked Joseph Olowu should have done better when he inadvertently headed a cross back where it came from.

The crowd stirred when Brannagan tried to lob former teammate Johnny Mitchell with a free-kick from halfway and they had something to cheer moments later.

The ex-U’s goalkeeper was pressured into a loose pass and McGuane’s clever flick allowed Brannagan to break into space. He found Matty Taylor to his left and Mitchell parried the shot up rather than away, with Bodin in the right place to chest home on the line.

Golding was in the thick of the action and almost put through his own net when he got a clearance wrong, with Jack Stevens tipping the ball over to spare the teenager’s blushes.

It did not deter the young centre back, who produced an excellent clearance from inside the six-yard box moments later and then almost created United’s second goal.

Golding drove out of defence and threaded a pass to Ryan Williams, who cut onto his left and curled a shot against Mitchell’s far post.

The game meandered towards half-time with neither side threatening a second goal and there was little to shout about in the first 15 minutes after the break.

Taylor fired straight at Mitchell from a tight angle on the hour mark and Luke McNally headed the resulting corner into the six-yard box, with Browne inches away from applying the finishing touch.

Both teams made their first substitutions as Doncaster’s Mipo Odubeko replaced Reo Griffiths, before Gavin Whyte came on for Browne.

Doncaster did not lie down and enjoyed a spell of pressure midway through the half, with Joe Dodoo seeing a shot blocked and Stevens parrying Odubeko’s powerful header behind.

The goalkeeper surely should have done better with the visitors’ equaliser, though. Martin had already sent in a couple of sighters from distance and this one appeared to deceive Stevens as the ball flew past him into the net.

United looked to regain their lead and Robinson threw on O’Donkor for his league debut in place of Williams, with the youngster joining Taylor up front as Whyte moved to wing back.

Consecutive Doncaster attacks broke down because of two players running into each other, which neatly summed up a limp second half.

Golding then almost capped an impressive debut when he met Bodin’s corner on the volley four minutes from time, but a defender cleared off the line.

A winner for the youngster would have been a nice end to the season, but it was not to be.

Oxford United (3-4-1-2): Stevens, Long, McNally, Golding, Williams (O’Donkor 77), Brannagan, McGuane, Seddon, Bodin, Taylor, Browne (Whyte 62).

Unused subs: Eastwood, Mousinho, Brown, Forde, Holland.

Booked: None.

Doncaster Rovers (4-3-3): Mitchell, Knoyle, Williams, Olowu, Jackson, Smith (Gardner 85), Bostock, Clayton, Dodoo, Griffiths (Odubeko 58), Martin.

Unused subs: Jones, Younger, Barlow, Galbraith, John.

Booked: Jackson.

Referee: Trevor Kettle (Rutland).

Attendance: 9,139 (440 visitors).

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