Mark Perrow reports from Ashton GateOxford United were shock victors at Ashton Gate as Danny Hylton’s late goal dumped City out of the Capital One Cup at the first hurdle.
All was going smoothly for Steve Cotterill’s much-changed side when Joe Bryan put the hosts in front inside two minutes, but City never really kicked on.
Instead Oxford conjured an equaliser when Carlton Morris headed home Joe Riley’s corner ten minutes into the second half before Hylton snatched an unlikely winner three minutes from time.
Cotterill delivered on his promise to shuffle his pack with eight changes to his side who won at Sheffield United on the opening day of the league campaign.
Only Frank Fielding, Luke Ayling and Sam Baldock kept their places, with Jordan Wynter notably making his first appearance under Cotterill’s stewardship.
But the new-look Robins took little time to settle, as Bryan
picked out the top corner with virtually his first touch of the new season.
Right wing-back Wynter’s cross from the right found Emmanuel-Thomas whose shot was only half-blocked into the path of the Bristolian, who checked inside on to his right foot and stroked in the opener from eight yards.
To their credit, the League Two side responded brightly to falling behind. Junior Brown and Josh Ruffels both fired over either side of an impressive effort from distance by Riley, who stung the palms of Frank Fielding from fully 35 yards.
But Oxford nearly shot themselves in the foot goalkeeper Max Crocombe spilled Bryan’s cross into the path of Emmanuel-Thomas, but the striker was ultimately crowded out before he could take advantage of the temporarily vacant target.
The visitors were dealt a blow when Ruffels was unable to continue after picking up a muscle injury and had to be replaced on 18 minutes.
At that point the game descended into something of a lull, which seemed to help the U’s grow in confidence.
With City rarely troubling the Yellows’ defence, Michael Appleton’s team began to put their hosts under pressure.
A moment of sloppiness from Marlon Pack in midfield allowed Alfie Potter the chance to run at the Robins’ defence and shoot into the chest of Fielding.
And Oxford did have the ball in the net four minutes before the interval only for Brown’s header into the bottom corner to be ruled out by an offside flag.
It was a let-off for City, who had not really kicked on since taking an early lead.
But goalscorer Bryan was hunting for a second and latched on to Pack’s clever free kick with an excellent touch and lob over the advancing Crocombe, only for United captain Jake Wright to make a lunging clearance.
Overall it had been an encouraging first period for the underdogs, who continued to press after the interval and were finally rewarded with an equaliser on 55 minutes, as Joe Riley’s corner from the right was powered home by Morris
It had been an unconvincing return to home comforts for City, who were asking for a penalty when Scott Wagstaff’s header was blocked by what might have been an arm before Emmanuel-Thomas volleyed the rebound wide.
Cotterill introduced Aaron Wilbraham and Wes Burns late on in a bid to find a winner, but instead Oxford snatched a place in round two at City’s expense as Hylton
slid in to convert Brown’s low cross and inflict a surprise defeat on the Robins.