Oxford 2-2 Tranmere: Report

This tie was supposed to lack the glamour and pizzazz of the FA Cup.

There was no potential for an upset – just a brace of League Two sides doing what they already do twice a season.

But on a crisp, wintery afternoon, Oxford and Tranmere played out a 2-2 draw that truly had the sparkle and magic befitting of the competition.

And to turn up the heat a little bit more, one true Prenton Park favourite rolled back the years and provided some wizardry of his own.

Jason Koumas, a man who has had his fair share of memorable moments in the FA Cup (who can forget his stunning goal in THAT win at Everton nearly 14 years ago?), duly obliged, providing a real blast from the past with a spectacular equaliser that earned Micky Adams’ side a replay.

This tie was also a chance for Tranmere to prove a point to Oxford.

Six weeks ago, up against the same opposition and in the midst of turmoil following Rob Edwards’ sacking, they crumbled to a 2-0 defeat.

Matt Gill was manager that day, Micky Adams watched on from the stands.

And he would have been pleased that Rovers showed how far they have come under his leadership, displaying belief that they can pick up results when staring defeat in the face.

It was a real topsy-turvy battle. Both teams were forced to come from behind during the 90 minutes and each had their own spells of dominance.

But it was probably Oxford who were the most disappointed not grab the win, as they created numerous chances in the second half but frequently failed to test Owain fon Williams in the Tranmere goal.

Both sides displayed a lack of cutting edge in the opening exchanges – which probably shows why they will resume relegation battles when League Two action returns next weekend.

But they each had chances. Calaum Jahraldo-Martin created one, turning neatly before tamely curling goalwards from 20-yards.

And whilst that was easily saved by Ryan Clarke, fon Williams was stretched a little more at the other end by Danny Hylton’s curling effort that did not quite have enough power or whip to beat the Welsh ‘keeper.

Just, though, as Oxford were beginning to get a foothold on the game, Tranmere struck gold with a goal that would be replayed time and again if it had been scored in the Premier League.

Shamir Fenelon created it, stretching his legs down the left wing and crossing into the box where he found Cole Stockton.

And the striker perfectly executed a wonderful piece of skill, back-healing home on the volley to put Rovers 1-0 up.

Oxford looked bereft of confidence now and in truth the visitors should have sealed the tie before the break.

However, Fenelon was not so clinical as his strike partner, waywardly firing over the bar when played through one-on-one.

What no one could have predicted is that that would be a real turning point, because after the break Oxford were the only team in it.

Tranmere started sluggishly. They were second to every ball and dropped deeper and deeper.

And although Fenelon fired one shot on target from 20-yards, it was sandwiched between efforts from Danny Rose, who skewed wide, and Callum O’Dowda, who got his angles horribly wrong in missing an open goal.

Rovers had been warned – but they did not respond and in a disastrous five minutes, Tyrone Barnett struck twice to turn the game on its head.

Indeed, he quite literally used his head to level the scores, nodding home unmarked from a corner to make it 1-1.

And moments later, despite being tightly marked by Marcus Holness, the striker turned far too easily and guided the ball into the bottom corner from ten yards out.

Micky Adams threw on the cavalry to try and salvage a result. Kayode Odejayi, Guy Madjo came on, as did Koumas.

And it did not take the latter long to show his brilliance as he bagged his sixth FA Cup goal – all of them for Tranmere.

Picking the ball up on the right, the midfielder floated inside with only one thing on his mind.

And after drifting past two defenders, he curled an unstoppable left-footed shot into the far left corner to equalise.

In truth though, Tranmere were lucky to get to full-time with their chance of a replay still intact, as two chances went begging for the hosts.

Both fell to Barnett, but he could not snatch his hat-trick, firstly shooting wide before fon Williams bravely threw himself in front of a point blank range shot in injury time.

It ended 2-2, a thrilling second half leaving the two teams inseparable.

They will have to do it all again later this month, but if this game is anything to go by, the replay is one to look forward to.

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