United were beaten 2-0 by Southend United today at the Kassam Stadium as first-half goals from Conor Clifford and Luke Prosser gave Southend all three points.
The game opened at breakneck speed and inside the first five minutes Deane Smalley had screwed a shot wide after a Dave Kitson through ball and Clifford had wasted a good chance for the Shrimpers at the other end. Kitson then fired narrowly wide from 25 yards before the visitors took a 13th-minute lead. A ball in from the right got caught under Asa Hall
’s boot as he tried to smash it clear and the attempted clearance ran straight to Clifford 20 yards out. He made the finish look simple but it was actually a well-struck shot that flew past the unsighted Clarke to make it 1-0.
The goal lifted the visitors who passed the ball about neatly and continued to come at United. The U’s created a great opening as Johnny Mullins met Alfie Potter’s 28th-minute cross with a thumping header which visiting keeper Dan Bentley parried but on the half hour it was 2-0 as another ball in from Southend’s right, this time an in-swinging free-kick from Kevan Hurst, picked out the head of Luke Prosser who gave Clarke no chance from ten yards out.
It could easily have been worse three minutes later as Corr’s goalbound effort was blocked by the perfectly placed Mullins and United had been a shadow of the team that impressed so much at Hartlepool a week before.
Manager Chris Wilder will have had strong words at half time and his side definitely responded after the break, creating good chances but unable to find a way past Dan Bentley.
Centre half Michael Raynes got forward to head two good chances just over the top, his partner Mullins powered in another header which Bentley somehow saved with his knees when a goal seemed certain and there was far more urgency from the Yellows.
They still needed to defend properly and Clarke made another stunning save to keep a Hurst effort out from close range. The game was very open and all it needed was one moment of magic. It almost came from Callum O’Dowda’s first meaningful contribution in league football as his cross on 72 picked out fellow sub James Constable who stooped to head at goal but found Bentley equal to it with a great save down to his right.
Clarke then made a magnificent save as Cauley Woodrow sauntered through but couldn't beat the keeper when one on one, but Southend had done the hard work by then. United meanwhile will lick their wounds and go again. They remain in the top four and have a chance to put this result behind them as they take on Northampton Town at the Kassam Stadium next Saturday.
Report by Chris Williams, pictures Steve Daniels, Stats by OPTA
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