9:52pm Tuesday 8th November 2011
By Mark Edwards
Oxford Utd 0, Southend 1 (R Hall 15) Wayne Brown and Tom Craddock were both sent off as Oxford United exited the Johnstone's Paint Trophy in an explosive clash at the Kassam Stadium last night.
Goalkeeper Brown, making only his second appearance for the club, saw red after just 12 minutes of the Southern Section quarter-final.
And Craddock, who was introduced as a half-time substitute after four months out injured, also saw red - along with Southend's Anthony Grant - nine minutes into the second period.
With no substitute keeper on the bench, United played more than 80 minutes with ten men and a midfielder, Asa Hall, in goal.
To be fair to United's players, they put in a great shift, but against the League Two table-toppers, it was always going to be almost impossible mission.
And with an FA Cup tie at League One Sheffield United on Saturday, a man down and seeing Damian Batt limp off at half-time, everything seemed to conspire against Chris Wilder's side.
The game changed when a through ball from Sean Clohessy saw Kane Ferdinand break United's offside trap and go through on goal.
The ball picked up pace off the slick surface, and when Ferdinand dummied, Brown stopped the ball with his right arm outside the area.
Referee David Phillips promptly produced the red card, and after taking off his shirt and gloves, Brown was forced to take an early bath.
Asa Hall, eventually, donned the goalkeeper's jersey, with Oxford's fans chanting 'England's No 1 at their stand-in.
To compound United's misery, from the free-kick, Ryan Hall curled his left-footed effort into the top corner - the keeper given no chance.
To be fair to the referee, the sending-off decision looked correct, but after that, so many of his calls were simply awful.
Facing a monumental task - a man and goal down - a huge cheer went up when Ferdinand's header was saved by Asa Hall.
And seconds later, when Jake Wright failed to control the keeper's throw-out, Ryan Leonard's well-hit shot was saved by the outstretched legs of Oxford's stopper.
United gradually got into the game towards the end of the first period, but struggled to create clear-cut openings.
Batt, who picked up a knock towards the end of the first half, was replaced at the interval by Andy Whing, with Craddock coming on for Potter.
Nine minutes after the restart, Simon Heslop went in hard, and late, on Ferdinand.
The players from both sides clashed as a melee ensued.
When calm was restored, the referee produced a red card for Grant, and kept the same card out to show Craddock.
Heslop was then booked for the initial foul.
With nine against ten, the game was stretched, but United almost fashioned an equaliser when Deane Smalley latched onto a ball over the top, but was pushed wide by keeper Luke Daniels, and Jonathan Franks's follow-up effort was deflected behind for a corner.
Some neat play from Franks and Heslop saw the former, making his full debut, shoot straight at Daniels.
But to be fair to United, despite their numerical disadvantage, they kept going and you always felt that they might manufacture another chance.
However, it never really materialised.
Asa Hall denied namesake Ryan with a fine save low to his left as Southend tried to put the game to bed, and then in injury Hall again came to the rescue to keep out Liam Dickinson's close-range shot.
United's weary players received a great ovation at the final whistle, the crowd full of admiration for their efforts. But it wasn't to be.
Oxford Utd: Brown, Batt (Whing 46), Worley, Wright, Kinniburgh, Heslop, McLaren(Payne 67), A Hall, Potter (Craddock 46), Smalley, Franks. Subs not used: Leven, Constable.
Southend: Daniels, Clohessy, Mohsni, Barker, Gilbert, Leonard(Sawyer 75), Ferdinand, Grant, Timlin, Sturrock(Dickinson 63), R Hall. Subs: Harris, Johnson, Prosser.
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