Fine finishes from Andy Whing James Constable and Alfie Potter earned the U's a win in their last appearance at the Kassam Stadium this season. A spectacular overhead kick from Whing, a rasping drive from Constable and a dinked effort from Potter in the second half eased United past Dale to end the home season with a well deserved three points.
United might have been in front after just three minutes when Deane Smalley, playing in the centre of a forward three, volleyed left-footed at goal from ten yards out and forced Dale keeper Josh Lillis into a good save with Alfie Potter steering the rebound just wide. Smalley with Potter and Sean Rigg alongside him looked a mobile front three and offered options for the midfield three of Whing, Scott Davies and Tony Capaldi.
Dale, unbeaten in six matches, had openings when George Donnelly headed straight at Max Crocombe after fifteen minutes and Joe Rafferty planted a speculative effort into the keeper’s arms on 20 but never truly threatened all afternoon.
Potter, striving to end the season as top scorer, fluffed his lines on 32 as Smalley headed him into acres of space but he delayed his shot and allowed two defenders to close him down but the first half had an end of term feel in the spring sunshine.
The second half was much brighter and having started promisingly United took a deserved lead on 53. Michael Duberry, captain for the day, headed down at the far post for Smalley to cross. The ball seemed to be well behind Whing but he showed great ingenuity to twist and volley the ball over his head for a stunning goal from six yards out. Whing doesn’t score simple goals and this was a cracker.
What little Max Crocombe had to do he did well in goal for United, taking crosses and growing in assurance with each game that he plays, but Dale rarely tested him; sub Reece Gray placing the ball into the side netting on 67 with one of their rare efforts at goal. Otherwise the excellent Duberry and Raynes defended manfully with full backs Liam Davis and Damian Batt successfully cutting out the vast majority of crosses from the Dale flanks.
Smalley once again ran himself into the ground but it was Beano not Deano who smashed home the second to make the game safe. Fellow sub JP Pittman slipped the ball into his path on the right of the area. The striker took careful aim then drilled an unstoppable angled drive across Lillis and into the top left corner. A fine strike to take him clear as United's top scorer for the season.
On 90 minutes it was 3-0 as United scored a great team goal. From Rochdale's corner, spectacularly useless in its execution, Rigg ran fifty yards then passed right to Potter. He drew the keeper then lofted it calmly over him for his eleventh of an excellent season.
3-0 was probably a fair reflection on the 90 minutes with the U's controlling much of the game to take their second win in a row. A good way to end the home campaign and if United can play with the same energy while showing the same efficiency in front of goal next season then we can't wait for August to come around.
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Report by Chris Williams, Pictures by Steve Daniels, Stats by PA Sports