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Football makes a welcome return to Bulpit Lane as League One's Oxford United visit

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Danny Robinson’s Hungerford Town went toe-to-toe with Karl Robinson’s League One Oxford United as football made a welcome return to Bulpit Lane on Tuesday, July 12.

The game finished 2-1 in Oxford’s favour but it was the Crusaders who won all the plaudits, having proved more than a match for a side that included former Liverpool man Cameron Brannagan.

The Crusaders started the game well – first, Reece Wylie hit a low shot straight at Oxford’s Simon Eastwood and then new signing Leighton Thomas, who caused United’s defence lots of problems, failed to connect with a header at the back post.

Youngster Reece Wylie impressed again for Hungerford
Youngster Reece Wylie impressed again for Hungerford

It was Oxford, however, who took the lead when Oisin Smyth rose highest to head home Jodi Jones’ corner just before the half hour mark.

Oisin Smyth heads home Oxford United's opener
Oisin Smyth heads home Oxford United's opener

Despite that, the Crusaders continued to impress and were rewarded when Joel Rollinson capitalised on a mix-up in Oxford’s defence and equalised with a delicate lob over the experienced Eastwood’s head 30 seconds into the second half.

United restored their lead when Thai under-23 international Ben Davis stunned the crowd of 538 with a strike from 25 yards just after the hour.

Hungerford were unable to find an equaliser but manager Danny Robinson was “very pleased” with his side’s performance.

Hungerford skipper James Rusby battles for the ball
Hungerford skipper James Rusby battles for the ball

“First and foremost, I want to say a massive thank you to Oxford United for coming down,” Robinson said.

“It was a real learning curve for us and it was great for our fans to see such a good team at Bulpit Lane.

“I think tonight is the happiest I’ve been all pre-season, I’m a very happy man.

“We’re fitter, stronger, faster and we’ll keep getting better.”

Curits Angell sends the ball forward
Curits Angell sends the ball forward

Former Bracknell goalkeeper Mark Scott impressed for the Crusaders – he’s been signed to replace Marcus Beauchamp, who Robinson says has “fallen out of love with football”.

“We’re chuffed with Mark Scott, he’s been in this league with Slough and Wealdstone, we’re delighted to have him.”

Hungerford travelled to South Wales on Saturday to play two hour long matches against League Two side Newport County.

Robinson said: “It was a real test, we were able to focus on what we do off the ball, it was a brilliant experience.”

Next up for the Crusaders is a trip to National League North side Gloucester City at the weekend – Robinson expects the match to be “a good indicator of exactly where we’re at”.

Last week, the Crusaders found out they’ll begin their National League South campaign at home to Concord Rangers on August 6 before a trip to newly relegated Dover Athletic on August 12.

“We’re delighted to be at home on the first day of the season, Concord are a good side who have recruited really well, but we’ll be prepared and we’re hoping to get as many supporters down to Bulpit Lane as possible.”

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