TWO goals in three second-half minutes saw Oxford United go down to a pre-season defeat against a strong Crystal Palace side at Selhurst Park.

The visitors impressed early on against Premier League opposition, taking the lead on 12 minutes through Cameron Brannagan at the end of a flowing move.

Some strong defensive work saw the U’s head into half-time with their lead still intact.

Jack Stevens saved Jeffrey Schlupp’s penalty shortly after the restart, but Palace came on strongly.

Wilfried Zaha and James McArthur scored in quick succession to turn the game on its head and United’s efforts in search of an equaliser all came from range.

There was though plenty to encourage boss Karl Robinson, just 11 days before the start of the season.

Also read: Oxford United display at Crystal Palace boosts Jack Stevens

Minor knocks ruled out James Henry and Mark Sykes, while Simon Eastwood did not start after falling awkwardly in the win against Banbury United on Saturday.

It was only 30 days since Palace finished their Premier League campaign and they looked suitably rusty early on.

Within the opening minute in what was their first friendly of the summer, Jeffrey Schlupp passed the ball straight to Matty Taylor, who was crowded out in the box.

The former Leicester City forward was quickly into the action at the other end, firing a low left-footed drive which Stevens got fingertips on to divert wide.

United had expected to be doing plenty of chasing, but they gave as good as they got in the opening stages and scored with their first big chance, on 12 minutes.

Brannagan spread the ball wide and got into the box, where he rammed home Matty Taylor’s knock-down from Sam Long’s excellent far post cross from ten yards.

Palace had to make an enforced change on 20 minutes, after James McCarthy came off second best in a tackle with Rob Atkinson.

The centre back made a timely block on Jordan Ayew in the six-yard box as the home side gradually warmed to their task.

Long did well against Zaha, but steadily United were pushed back and it became more of the contest they had been expecting.

Ayew was denied by some more last-ditch defending seven minutes before the break. This time Elliott Moore was in the right place at the right time after Schlupp got round the back.

The ball fell to Zaha ten yards out, but he blazed over Palace’s best chance of the half.

An even better opening arrived four minutes after the break, when John Mousinho – one of seven half-time substitutes – was adjudged to have fouled Zaha in the box.

Schlupp stepped up, but saw his weak penalty saved by Stevens.

United’s lead was though cancelled out on 51 minutes, Zaha springing the offside trap to get away from Mousinho and slot past the goalkeeper.

Palace struck again with their next attack, Alex Gorrin diverting Andros Townsend’s cross straight to McArthur, who did not need a second invitation to score from close range.

United took time to get the wobble out of their system, before Rob Dickie twice headed off target from Rob Hall corners.

Dan Agyei, another to come on at the break, fired straight at Stephen Henderson from range.

Palace though continued to look the more dangerous side and it took another great save from Stevens to deny McArthur a second goal.

Derrick Osei’s long-distance drive almost caught out Henderson as rain fell late on, but Palace held on for the victory.

United’s pre-season continues against Queens Park Rangers at the Kassam Stadium on Saturday.

Crystal Palace (4-4-2): Henderson, Ward (Woods 71), Dann (Inniss 71), Kouyate (Kelly 61), Riedewald (Gordon 81), Townsend (Boateng 81), McCarthy (Mitchell 20), McArthur (Kirby 75), Zaha, Ayew (Meyer HT), Schlupp.

Subs: Hennessey, Jach, Pierrick.

Oxford Utd (4-3-3): Stevens (Eastwood 78), Long (Clare HT), Moore (Dickie HT), Atkinson (Mousinho HT), Ruffels (Lofthouse 78), McGuane (Kelly HT), Gorrin, Brannagan (Napa 68), Forde (Hall HT), Taylor (Osei HT), Cooper (Agyei HT).

Referee: Kevin Friend (Leicestershire).