Oxford United bounced back in great style today to win 2-1 away at Wigan Athletic in Sky Bet League 1. A Matty Taylor strike and a James Henry goal were enough to give the U's all three points after a terrific performance away from home despite a late goal from Thelo Aasgaard for the home side.
United were full value for the win and dominated almost the entire 90 minutes. The first half in particular was one-way traffic. The excellent Jordan Obita was a little unlucky to see a header go out for a corner off keeper Jamie Jones’ shin after 40 seconds. A Sam Long header looped over from similar distance not long after as they pushed the home side back; Taylor nudged a tricky chance over the bar from even closer after 12 minutes after a magnificent cross from James Henry had caught everyone flat-footed and then the striker couldn’t beat a sliding defender after an equally wicked ball in from Obita from the other flank. No matter: he just bounces back and you give him further chances at your peril.
Marcus McGuane drew a fine save from Jones after cutting in from the left before Taylor headed a superb Liam Kelly cross back across goal but inches wide. Was it going to be one of those days where one side dominate and then get caught out? The returning Rob Atkinson and imperious Elliott Moore were determined not to let that happen, but there was also a steely determination from the whole eleven; Marcus McGuane and Liam Kelly covered miles as they linked outstanding holding midfielder Alex Gorrin with a front three of Henry, Obita and Taylor.
Meanwhile, full backs Sam Long and Josh Ruffels added width and stretched a Wigan side all across the pitch; the Latics, without a manager, looked short on confidence after a poor run and were almost breached when Obita again tested the overworked Jones with a good strike just before half time; Henry’s wild slash at the rebound and a Gorrin blast in injury time made it 12 shots from the U’s before the 13th, an Atkinson header cleared off the line from the resulting corner, ended a one-sided first 45 minutes.
Wigan, of course, almost scored completely against the run of play at the start of the second half, Kyle Joseph sidefooting their best chance of the game wide when he should have done better as the Latics started to open up after the break, allowing United to ping a string of dangerous crosses into the box.
It proved a very dangerous game to play. On the hour United finally got their reward when McGuane popped up on the left while Wigan peered into the acres of space. His low cross left Taylor with plenty to do but a touch a turn and the ball was past Jones and United had a deserved lead.
Taylor almost made it two soon after with an unTaylorlike drive from 25 yards which was creeping inside the far post until Jones got a glove to it. Moore met the corner that followed and headed against the bar, Taylor then forced yet another good save from Jones with a header from a superb Long cross and the game should have been put to bed with 25 minutes left.
Wigan had an unenviable choice: try and chase the game and leave even bigger gaps or sit tight and hope to hit on the break. They did come back into it but hopeful crosses dropped into empty stands and on 87 it was seemingly game over as Wigan committed one man too many to attack. Taylor ran clear and weighted his pass perfectly for the galloping Sean Clare, on as a sub and busting a gut to get forward. His cross was perfect, Henry collected and that was it. 2-0.
Remarkably, Wigan still had a surprise in store; Aasgaard n-odin home a header at the near post to make it 1-2 and cause unexpected anxiety: merely a Thor point in the end despite seven minutes of added time to endure.
No matter. Questions were asked after a home defeat to Crewe on Tuesday. The players asked most of those themselves. Today they answered many of them. Now they just need to do that consistently.
Report by Chris Loki Williams, pictures by Darrell Fisher, stats by OPTA
(Note to stattos: United brought on late subs to use all five for the first time this afternoon.)