OXFORD United boss Chris Wilder said star striker James Constable was lucky not to have suffered a broken leg after a late challenge during last night’s friendly against Oxford City.

Former U’s youngsters Andy Gunn and Michael Alexis were on target for City as they beat United 2-1 after Jack Midson had fired the visitors ahead.

But it was the late tackle from Andy Baird, which earned the centre back a yellow card in the first half that enraged Wilder.

“The biggest aspect of the game is that my centre forward (Constable) hasn’t broken his leg,” said Wilder.

“The challenge was not good at all.

“I expect people to compete, but I thought it was a cowardly challenge.

“It certainly wasn’t 50-50 and it makes you have second thoughts about playing these sorts of games.

“I have seen challenges in games I have played in, but I have not seen a challenge as bad as that.

“I don’t want to take anything away from City’s result, but you just don’t expect things like that to happen.”

But City’s manager Justin Merritt said: “There was nothing in it for me.

“I think the player’s reaction made it a lot worse. I think their centre back’s challenge on (James) Clarke was just as bad.”

United paraded all of their new signings – Damian Batt the only member of their squad who didn’t feature because of a hamstring strain.

The U’s took a look at Gavin Caines, formerly of Cheltenham, who partnered Mark Creighton in central defence in the first half.

Midson fired the U’s into a tenth-minute lead after City failed to clear a cross from the right by Richard Groves and the former Histon man smashed the ball past Laurie Walker, who was making his debut in City’s goal.

However, both sides were struggling to string good play together, and the game was largely fragmented.

However, Baird’s tackle on Constable seemed to spark everyone into life.

City’s best chance came late in the first half, but Mark Bell fired wide with just Billy Turley to beat.

United changed ten of their 11 players at half-time – right back Ian Sampson the only player to stay on the pitch for the full 90 minutes.

City also rang the changes, and they should have levelled through another ex-U’s striker Lee Steele, but he failed to hit the target when well-placed.

Then only a great challenge from Andy Caton denied the lively Alfie Potter a shot on goal.

On 52 minutes Gunn levelled when he headed in a well-taken free-kick from Bell.

Walker kept out a fierce drive from Matt Green, before the striker, on-loan from Torquay, missed two easy chances to restore United’s lead.

And the U’s were to rue that miss when Alexis celebrated his return from a broken leg in January last year by cracking home a 20-yard drive that left new United keeper Ryan Clarke clutching at thin air.

The U’s tried to get back in the game, but City’s defence – in which Gunn was outstanding – held firm.

Wilder added: “We are disappointed to lose.

“I thought in the first half we gave it a bit of a blast, but in the second half we let our standards slip.

“We don’t like to get beat, but fortunately for us there were no points at stake.”

Merritt, however, was delighted with his side’s showing.

“It’s a nice little result,” he said.

“It was a good game of football and I was very pleased with our performance. It was nice to see a few people here.”

Oxford City: Walker, Clarke (Perpetuini 60), Caton (Gunn 46), Savage, Ballard, Baird, Lyon (Bell 46), Pond (Malone 46), Fisher (Greaves 60, Jones 84), Faulconbridge (Steele 46), Bell (Alexis 60).

Oxford Utd: Turley (Clarke 46), Sampson, Caines (Foster 46), Creighton (Killock 46), Sandwith (Carruthers 46), Groves (Potter 46), Bullman (Chapman 46), Clist (Murray 46), Kelly (Rhodes 46), Midson (Deering 46), Constable (Green 46).

Attendance: 1,710.