Oxford United made it five league games unbeaten as they won back-to-back home games for the first time this season. A first goal for the club from left back Tom Newey
and an expertly taken goal in the second half from new arrival David Connolly kept the momentum up as caretaker boss Mickey Lewis's unbeaten start continued, despite a late goal from Wimbledon's Charlie Wyke.
With Michael Raynes
and Jake Wright
unavailable, Matt Bevans
made a full league debut and David Hunt
moved over to centre half alongside skipper Johnny Mullins
. Along with Newey the back four were as resilient as ever although they were forced to bond quickly as the visitors started well and saw plenty of the ball in the first 15 minutes.
United then enjoyed a similar spell of possession with Nicky Wroe
and Danny Rose
starting to get on the ball in the centre of midfield. Josh Ruffels
headed a fine cross from Bevans wide on the half hour and then on 39 came the breakthrough. Bevans forced a corner, Rose swung it in with his left foot and Newey ghosted across his defender to steer a fine header into the bottom right corner of the net to register his first goal for the club.
On balance of play United deserved their lead against a Dons side who have only scored four times in the first half all season. On a sticky pitch and with a swirling wind it had been difficult for both sides but they had produced a decent 45 minutes of football.
It had come at a price, with Rigg limping as he left the pitch and replaced by loan signing Connolly at half time. That meant a switch for Smalley who went out wide on the right to allow Connolly to partner James Constable
in the middle. The on-loan Portsmouth man showed plenty of energy and clever movement and that helped United become a little more cohesive as they attacked the open west end of the ground.
Connolly's movement caused Wimbledon all sorts of problems and on 54 he doubled the lead with an expertly taken goal. Ruffels, again composed throughout, flicked a great ball down the left channel for Connolly to race for with Will Antwi coming across to try and stop him. Connolly got there first but still had plenty to do as he reached the ball 18 yards out. Keeper Ross Worner perhaps made Connolly's mind up by coming off his line, giving the former Republic of Ireland star the chance to loft the ball beyond him and into the net for a debut goal.
Wimbledon must be sick of the sight of Oxford; they have now lost all eight of the games they have played against The U's since their first meeting in 2009. Harry Pell nodded a decent chance over the bar on 55 minutes as they tried to find a way back into the game but Smalley might have killed the game off on 59 as he flashed a shot narrowly wide from Constable's pass across the box. Eventually Wimbledon did manage to get the ball into the net as Charlie Wyke latched onto a poor back header. His first shot was superbly saved from poiht-blank range by Ryan Clarke
but the ball fell kindly for Wyke to lash it into the net. It was the first league goal United had conceded in 2014 and set up a tense last quarter of an hour.
United held firm though and the return for Dave Kitson
as a late sub for the ever-willing Constable was another encouraging sign on a day when United did all that was asked of them.
Defensively sound, a midfield that looks composed and works hard, and a front line that offers lots of variations. 'Mad Dog's Yellow Army' the fans sang as United are back in the automatic promotion places. Still a long way to go, but an important win and United march on.
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Report by Chris Williams, Pictures by Steve Daniels Stats by OPTA
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