An experimental Oxford United side threw away a 2-0 lead in the Checkatrade Trophy before losing on penalties to Brighton & Hove Albion’s academy side on Tuesday.
Gino van Kessel ended his six-game wait for a goal with two first half strikes, but it was only enough for a point as Brighton scored all their penalties to bag the extra point at the Kassam Stadium.
Brighton fought back with long distance strikes from James Tilley and Dan Mandriou to cap a decent comeback for the young Seagulls.
Joe Rothwell was the only one to miss from the spot in a game that was played in front of just 1,074 fans – United’s second lowest home attendance of all-time.
Pep Clotet, the United boss, shuffled his team around from the weekend’s 4-1 league win at Peterborough and went with an experimental 3-5-2 formation, making eight changes in the process.
The night started badly for the U’s as Agon Mehmeti’s full debut lasted less than five minutes before he was stretchered off.
But United took control of the tie midway through the first half with two goals in seven minutes.
Van Kessel opened his account for the evening with a deflected effort on 21 minutes before striking quickly afterwards from 12 yards for his fourth Oxford goal.
Scott Shearer, making his United debut, interrupting Simon Eastwood’s 75 game run in goal in the process, was beaten shortly before half time when Tilley let rip from the edge of the area.
Van Kessel nearly made it 3-1 just before the hour but Brighton steadily improved after the break and on 67 minutes were level with another fine strike. This time it was Mandriou with the fizzing effort from 20 yards.
Both sides created enough chances to win it, but this one went to penalties. James Roberts, James Henry, Josh Ruffels and Josh Ashby all scored for the U’s but Rothwell missed the decisive spot-kick.
The group remains wide open with one game remaining.
Oxford are second in Southern Section Group G on four points and face group-toppers MK Dons on November 7.