Oxford United's remarkable away form continued with a 3-0 win at Barnet this afternoon. Two goals from Callum O'Dowda
and a strike from Danny Hylton
gave United an invaluable win as they opened up a six point gap over third-placed Bristol Rovers at the top of the League 2 table.
There was a buzz at the Hive straight away and the game began at a million miles an hour. United might easily have taken the lead in the second minute when Kemar Roofe
freed O’Dowda for a run at goal. The winger checked inside but couldn’t beat home keeper Jamie Stephens with his low shot. Barnet then had a good chance themselves when Curtis Weston headed down from eight yards out and forced Benji Buchel
to make a good save. The same player then tested Buchel with an 18th minute shot from the edge of the area and it was good honest all-action football from both sides.
Barnet were a touch more direct that the U’s but it was a raking long pass from John Lundstram
on 26 that almost produced the opener as it picked out the flying Alex MacDonald
. He took the ball down well but couldn’t beat Stephens as the keeper raced from his line.
Moments later Stephens was tested once more when a flowing move with George Waring
at its centre ended with a Roofe cutback and fierce Liam Sercombe
shot which the keeper did well to push away. Lundstram then tried his luck from 25 yards with a left-footed shot that Stephens clutched to his chest, but Barnet were far from being scalped and it took some brave defending from Chey Dunkley
and skipper Johnny Mullins
to keep it at 0-0 at half time.
Buchel made a decent save from Weston in the opening exchanges of the second half but it was O'Dowda who made the decisive strike after 52. Having looked dangerous all afternoon, the Ireland under-21 star drifted in from the left and with a burst of pace bore down on goal. Stephens and his backtracking defence managed to beat his shot away at the near post but O'Dowda had come back into precisely the right area and steered the loose ball back across goal and into the net, sparking wild scenes among the 1,568 away fans at that end of the ground.
MacDonald and Roofe both had shots go close in the minutes immediately after that goal and the more that Barnet opened up to try and find an equaliser the more United looked like hitting them on the break. A flowing move on the hour, with O'Dowda the orchestrator, ended with Roofe powering a dipping effort inches wide before O'Dowda's second goal capped a fine performance.
Once again it was a quick break that did it, with the Kidlington Kid picking up the ball inside his own half and sprinting forward, supported by Alex MacDonald
to his right and with just one defender in their path. At the crucial moment O'Dowda opted to use MacDonald as a decoy and go past the last man himself. Stephens, suddeny the last line, did well to save the first effort but O'Dowda again responded the quickest, took a touch, then fired home to make it 2-0.
Barnet were now firmly on the back foot and the excellent Waring again went close with a quick turn and shot that was deflected wide by a sliding defender. Barnet have plenty of hunger and application and have pulled well clear of any danger this season but found it tough going against the mean red line in front of them and when Andy Yiadom did get a sight of goal on 83 he couldn't beat Buchel as the keeper picked up his second clean sheet of the week.
United have grown in stature while others have faltered and on 88 it was game over as the superb Lundstram galloped away on the right and delivered a perfect pass for the unmarked Hylton who made no mistake with a calm finish from 12 yards out to make it 3-0 and guarantee all three points.
An assured performance, an excellent result and United march on. Next up is Stevenage at home on Good Friday. Do yourself a favour; come and join us.
Report by Chris Williams, pictures Darrell Fisher, stats by Opta
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