If Paul Rachubka came to Accrington expecting a quiet life, Saturday’s match as the Stanley keeper certainly taught him otherwise.
The 31-year-old was called in at the last minute on an emergency loan after it was confirmed that Stanley’s only professional keeper Ian Dunbavin would need an operation on his shoulder which could see him sidelined for the rest of the season.
The Leeds stopper only met his new team-mates two hours before kick-off but he was straight into a blood-and-guts FA¿Cup tie which saw four goals conceded in the final 14 minutes.
It went one way, then another, with Rachukba named man-of-the-match for a stunning display which saw him keep out two Sean Rigg blasts as well as others but he also had to pick the ball out of the net three times in a frantic battle.
“It was never going to be a simple 1-0,” smiled the new keeper who, with the loan window closed, can only sign on a week-to-week deal until the January window opens.
“I certainly did not want to be that busy and it would have been nice for it to be a walk in the park but sometimes it doesn’t work out like that.
“I just want to be playing regularly where results matter and Accrington have offered me that – for how long I don’t yet know.”
This result certainly mattered for both sets of players and supporters.
Oxford boss Chris Wilder admitted it was a hard game for his players following the sudden death of former United player Mitchell Cole, 27, on Friday night and he was proud of the way they bounced back twice as it looked like Stanley had sealed a place in the third round.
For Reds fans it felt like a defeat after Stanley went ahead in injury-time through Lee Molyneux’s first Reds goal – only to throw it away with virtually the last touch of the game and now they have to do it all again at the Kassam Stadium on Wednesday if they’re to book a third-round home tie against Sheffield United.
“It is frustrating as we took the lead twice and lost it, we know we can do better,” continued the new keeper. “But for me, I was happy to be part of it.”
Leam Richardson started with Padraig Amond and James Beattie up front and they had the early chances with Amond having an effort cleared off the line and Rommy Boco heading against the crossbar.
However, Oxford’s pacey Jon-Paul Pittman used his trickery to get past the Reds’ defence and open the scoring on 12 minutes.
Stanley got back in it when Boco’s cross to the far post was mis-kicked by Amond and it fell for Craig Lindfield to hammer home his first goal of the season.
From then on it was nip and tuck. Oxford were unlucky to lose Pittman (shoulder) and Andy Whing (knee) who were both stretchered off either side of the break.
But winger Rigg was a real threat for Oxford and had two blistering strikes kept out by Rachubka.
However, it looked like the headlines were written 10 minutes from time when Beattie scored his first goal from open play for the Reds with a wonder strike from 30 yards.
He has scored two penalties but this was one to savour as the ball bounced to him from a clearance and he hit it from first time with the side of his foot into the top corner of the net.
“I have seen him do that before,” smiled Richardson.
“He certainly meant it. He apologised to me when he came off for the 10 minutes before the goal where he couldn’t get himself into the game as much as he would have liked, but you forgive him for that.”
However, with four minutes left, Stanley were again caught out at the back and striker James Constable smashed home the equaliser.
At that stage, both sides were going for the victory.
And one minute into injury time sub Molyneux struck a perfect free kick which tucked into the top corner of the net for what looked like the winner.
But a Crown Ground game is not for the faint-hearted. All the Reds had to do was hold on for two minutes but they went from cheering to groaning when Michael Raynes leapt the highest to head home another equaliser with just seconds on the clock remaining – the defender’s first goal in three years.
So frustrating for Stanley, so elating for the travelling Oxford fans, with both sides now having to do it all again.
“When you score so late on, obviously we are disappointed we didn’t win,” said Richardson.
“It does feel like we have lost as we were so close to going through but we now have to do it all again. We need to reflect on what happened at the end and sit down and look at it and learn from it.
“I am sure for a neutral it was a fantastic FA¿Cup tie but not for the two managers, the two teams and both sets of fans.
“We were the home team, we started with two strikers, and we went for it but Oxford came with a game plan and it worked well.
“Sadly though you have got to make mistakes to learn from them and then do better.
“We scored two goals worthy of winning any games and I am pleased with the work ethic and application – what was not so great was some of the decision making.
“But, on the positive side, Paul has come in and looks a top quality keeper, he has experience and was fantastic for us.
“And Lee Molyneux has had a tough few months but he has come here, he has not done anything wrong but was left out of the XI on Saturday. That’s how to answer it – score a goal like that.”
Richardson will be hoping his team can continue with the goals and cut out the errors to seal the £27,000 on offer for a second-round win.