Oxford United claimed another famous scalp as they marched in to Round 5 of the Emirates FA Cup with a famous 3-0 win over Newcastle United. Goals from Kane Hemmings
, Curtis Nelson
, and debutant Toni Martinez, all from corners, sent Michael Appleton's side through in front of a sold-out crowd who loved every moment of a pulsating cup tie.
Played against a magnificent backdrop of a full stadium, with a full-volume crowd, United threw themselves into the early challenges but were forced to concede ground against a youthful Newcastle side who settled well and were neat and composed in the build up without really threatening Simon Eastwood
’s goal in the early moments
and John Lundstram
quickly got a grip of midfield and drove United forward, with Marvin Johnson
a constant threat on the left wing and Rob Hall
having the first shot on target after half an hour with a low drive saved at the near post by Matz Sels after a clever short corner routine from the U’s.
Newcastle had been quiet for half an hour but then came to life with four good chances before the break. Jesus Gamez blasted in a 32nd-minute effort that Eastwood caught cleanly, the keeper far more troubled by a Ben El-Mahanni effort moments later that was caught sweetly but at a good height for the keeper to tip it away for a corner. Aleksandar Mitrovic then should have scored on 35 when he romped clear but could not force the ball past the advancing Eastwood before the United keeper made one more excellent save from Mitrovic on 45 after a beautiful passing move from Newcastle had opened United up.
Unfortunately for the Toon, they hadn’t taken those chances and 50 seconds into the second half were punished as Hemmings gave the U’s the lead. Another clever short corner allowed Maguire to float an inviting cross to the back post where Dunkley was the one player prepared to attack it with purpose. His header flew back across goal and there was Hemmings to tap it home and give his side the lead.
It wasn't a smash and grab by any stretch of the imagination. The U's were playing some excellent football and more than matching a side with genuine Premier League credentials for next season. In Curtis Nelson
and Chey Dunkley
they had a formidable defensive partnership, ably supported by Phil Edwards
and Joe Skarz
: all four a picture in determination to try and keep the clean sheet that would take their team into the fifth round.
In the build up, Michael Appleton had said he needed Eastwood to be Man of the Match and on 66 the champagne and trophy were headed for United's number one. Mitrovic was felled by Edwards and stepped up to take the penalty. His shot was low and to Eastwood's right but the keeper had guessed the right way and was down to make an outstanding save - the latest in a hugely impressive season.
Now we had a classic FA Cup tie on our hands. Hall nipped in front of a defender to rifle a shot just wide and the whole ground was buzzing; West Ham loanee Martinez must have wondered what on earth was going on when he made his bow with 20 minutes to go.
Every single Oxford player was outstanding, Lundstram leading by example and spraying the ball around to set United forward, Hall almost teeing Hemmings up for a second with a quick move that was only stopped by a last-gasp tackle by a desperate defender on 76. The Championship high fliers had threatened little in the second half but were committing more and more men forward and were lucky to scramble the ball away when Martinez couldn't pick out Hemmings on 79.
It mattered little, Hall powered in a corner, Nelson got up highest and his header was unstoppable as United roared into a 2-0 lead and yet another famous cup victory. The icing on the cake came from Martinez who showed what he is all about when granted too much room in the penalty area, planting an unstoppable header just inside the post and sparking wild scenes among the home fans.
Newcastle will rue that 15 minutes before the break and the missed penalty. It doesn't matter too much: the FA Cup has a passion and a drama all of its own and United had earned their victory.
I am fortunate. I saw the great Jim Smith's side cause an upset against Kevin Keegan's side in the '80s. Cup upsets seemed to come every week in those glory days. It has taken 30 years for the U's to get that going again. Newcastle, Swansea, Swindon, Birmingham, Millwall, Rotherham: all higher-league sides beaten, and beaten deservedly in the last year or so. United are on the march. See you in Round 5.
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Report by Chris Williams, pictures by Steve Daniels, stats by OPTA
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