Oxford United secured an important win with an emphatic 3-0 victory over Mansfield Town at the Kassam Stadium this afternoon. Two goals from Alex MacDonald and a penalty from top scorer Danny Hylton gave the Yellows all three points as they outfought and outplayed the Stags.
There were tactical and enforced changes to the line-up, with MacDonald back on the right wing, Josh Ruffels restored to midfield and Sam Long at left back after Joe Skarz failed a late fitness test on a hamstring strain. Long had the first chance of the game, ghosting on to an early corner in characteristic style but guiding his effort just the wrong side of the post.
Mansfield had a couple of bobbling chances in the first seven minutes on a difficult surface before Patrick Hoban, excellent throughout, headed an 18th-minute cross from George Baldock over the top after the right back had spun his way to the dead-ball line.
The impressive Baldock then turned provider as United took the lead after half an hour. The right-back was tenacious to win the ball by the corner flag and then dug out a cross despite close attention from two defenders. Hoban ran to the near post and dragged keeper Lenny Pidgeley under the ball and unable to gather it, a touch only taking it to the far post where MacDonald applied a calm finish for his first United goal.
Mansfield had a late effort from Simon Heslop dribble wide but otherwise had offered little to worry Ryan Clarke in the opening period with the U's good value for their lead at the break.
They might have doubled the lead a minute into the second half when the hard-working Hoban twisted to head narrowly wide. The irrepressible MacDonald hit a 50th-minute effort that Pidgeley needed to tip round the post as it crept towards the bottom left corner, but wasn't to be denied for long. On 54 minutes Collins fed Hylton who burst into the box and was upended. O'Dowda was not about to stop and see if a foul was given but seized on the loose ball and tricked his way into a shooting position. It ballooned back from a block, Collins was similarly halted, but MacDonald was on it in a flash and slammed the ball into the corner of the net to double the lead and his goal tally.
Tempers flared and frustration threatened to bubble over but United kept their calm and on 63 were home and hosed as Hylton made it 3-0 from the spot. Hoban did the hard work by bringing the ball under control and poking the ball past Ryan Tafazolli who stuck out a boot to bring the Irish striker down. Clear penalty. Hylton. 3-0. Game over.
United had dominated - Clarke was virtually a spectator throughout and livened up the last ten minutes with an outrageous dummy to beat a closing down striker, just to underline United's supremacy. Sub James Roberts had a couple of late chances go close as the U's sought a fourth, but it was all about seeing things through and being professional, something United achieved almost at a canter.
Head Coach Michael Appleton had called on his men to stand up and be counted. Clean sheet, three points. Job done
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Report by Chris Williams, Pictures by Steve Daniels
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