A goal in both halves saw United beaten at Burton this afternoon. A first-half header from Adam McGurk and a late strike from Lucas Aikins kept the Brewers bubbling near the top of the table and left United beaten on the road for the second time in a week.
There were changes to the line-up as George Baldock made his debut and Andy Whing and Josh Ashby returned to the midfield. With Michael Collins to the right of a three-man midfield, the U’s were comfortable on the ball but constantly harried by a hyper-active Brewers, who never gave them a moment’s peace, closing down quickly and denying United any space.
The home side are well-drilled and on 14 they showed their class with a decisive strike to open the scoring. Ryan Clarke made an excellent save to keep out a well-struck effort from Damien McCrory from the edge of the box but the ball only looped as far as Adam McGurk, who leapt to nod the ball past the stranded Clarke and into the net to make it 1-0.
United stuck to their guns and kept passing the ball but were finding it hard to do so close to the home goal. While the Brewers had dominated possession it was the U’s who should have scored the next goal when Mullins took a cross down inside the box but saw his effort nicked off his toe and away for a corner when it seemed he was set to continue his recent scoring run with an equaliser.
Still in it at the break, United almost equalised straight away in the second period as Ashby poked a 47th-minute effort wide but they then came under pressure as Burton fizzed in crosses, had an effort scrambled clear and landed a header on the roof of the net within seven minutes of the restart.
There was a switch around on the hour mark as Kemar Roofe replaced Whing and United went to 4-4-2, stretching the game and using the width well through the tricky West Brom loanee on the right and the lively O'Dowda on the left. Roofe's 75th-minute run, beating two men on his way to the dead ball line, hinted at plenty to come during his time with the U's and was only lacking the finish as Danny Hylton crashed the cross into the side-netting from seven yards out.
The defining moment in a close game came in the 82nd minute as Roofe was felled and the U's won a free kick on the edge of the box. Up stepped Ashby to take responsibility and strike a thunderous effort over the wall, only to see it come back off the bar with home keeper Jon McLaughlin beaten. Promise aplenty from Ashby once more and his day will come.
Had that been a foot lower then who knows? Instead on 89 minutes a ball through the left channel, Akins away and clear and his low left-footed finish was past Clarke in a flash and United were beaten.
Once again, no lack of effort and commitment but two clinical finishes and United were left only with what might have beens. They now welcome Mansfield Town to the Kassam Stadium next Saturday for a game they need to win. Be there.
Report by Chris Williams, Pictures by Darrell Fisher, Stats by OPTA