United bounced back to claim a vital win this afternoon as goals in the 28th minute of both halves gave them a 2-0 win over bottom club Tranmere Rovers at the Kassam Stadium this afternoon. Strikes from Tyrone Barnett and Alfie Potter earned the U's all three points as the Oxford once again came up trumps in a must-win game.
After the 5-1 defeat at Cambridge changes needed to be made and so skipper Jake Wright and loan signing Tareiq Holmes-Dennis came into defence, Andy Whing made his first start of the season in midfield and Barnett joined Danny Hylton up front. Initially the changes saw United on the front foot but even in the first 15 minutes there was an edge to a game between two sides in real need of the points. One or two challenges were decidedly late as the teams tried to assert their authority, while there was precious little space anywhere on the park in a game played at a million miles an hour.
The first chance of the game took 20 minutes to arrive and United needed Ryan Clarke to be at his best to push away a 20-yard effort from the splendidly named Max Power. Top scorer Hylton mistimed a 22nd-minute header as United hit back and then on 28 minutes it was 1-0 with a fine opener.
Holmes-Dennis started it with a raking pass from left to right to set Hylton free. He cut inside and charged at goal and then slipped a perfectly timed pass inside for Barnett who tucked the ball expertly home from 12 yards out. A well-worked goal and another example of the fast-developing partnership between Hylton and Barnett up front for the U's.
With Whing setting the tone, the U's were far more committed than the previous week and they might have been 2-0 up at the break when Hylton again teed up Barnett in the 39th minute only for keeper Peter Brezovan to make a good save as Barnett tried to finish from 12 yards again. Barnett then flicked a header towards the bottom left corner from a Rose cross in the 45th minute to force former United triallist Brezovan into another good save, and at the break the better side were undoubtedly in front.
The second half continued in similar fashion with the visitors having to defend a succession of dangerous crosses and United on the front foot. It should have been 2-0 on 64 when Callum O'Dowda sidefooted across at the back post and Hylton somehow smashed his shot, under pressure, against the underside of the bar from about three yards out. A second goal at that stage would have killed the game off but Tranmere were still in it at 1-0 and had definitely improved after the break under the watchful eye of new boss Micky Adams.
However, United were still in control and on 73 were just about there as Potter scored his first of the season. A slick passing move saw Rose free Riley for a low cross. Hylton sold the whole ground, and himself, a superb dummy to let the ball run past him and the gleeful Potter was perfectly placed to drill a low right-footed effort through Brezovan to make it 2-0. A resurgent Potter, fit again after a groin injury, can only lift the U's and with senior players returning and putting in a shift all over the park this was very encouraging stuff.
The images promoting the game had carried the hashtag '#together'. Job done.
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Report by Chris Williams, Pictures by Steve Daniels
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