Oxford United were too sharp for the Daggers as they booked their place in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy Southern Semi-Finals with a 2-0 win this evening. Goals in the opening seconds of both halves from Patrick Hoban and Alex MacDonald sent the U's through.
United got the perfect start when Hoban crashed them in front after barely 30 seconds. Danny Hylton created it, pressurising a defender and battling his way in to the penalty area before clipping the ball across from the right. Hoban had backed Hylton’s perseverance and made a run into the box and with the goal at his mercy he slammed an acrobatic volley into the net to score his third goal for the U’s.
The early goal will have settled any nerves that a young United side might have had. Robbie Cundy and AJ George on their full debuts had plenty of touches of the ball in the early stages, with Cundy almost setting Alex MacDonald through on goal with a superb pass after ten minutes and George looking bright and inventive on the right wing.
Dagenham had a 23rd minute effort from Ashley Hemmings saved by the knees of Benji Buchel but were otherwise kept at bay by a new-look Yellows back four, well marshalled by stand-in skipper Joe Skarz.
At the other end Alex MacDonald blasted in a 29th minute shot that home keeper Mark Cousins needed both hands to save to his right, and the non-stop Hylton forced the keeper into a decent save on 41 after Hylton looked to have got the better of him at first but no matter, start a half and United will score within 90 seconds…
They started the second half just as well as the first. George got them on the front foot, Sercombe had a shot blocked by Hemmings and when the ball came back to the edge of the area MacDonald latched on to it and rifled it low and hard past the stranded Cousins to make it 2-0 in front of the excellent 224 away fans in a pleasingly binary 1011 crowd.
Dunkley needed to be alert to head off the line a minute later and Dagenham shook off their starting problems to try and force their way back into the tie, although no home wins all season seemed to have taken its toll on their confidence. Ashley Chambers thumped an effort over the top just after the hour, but the more they gambled to try and get back into it the more dangerous United looked on the break. Even the cunning tactic of bringing on Jamie Cureton didn't produce his customary goal against the U's.
George stole the ball on 66 to put Hoban through once more, only for a last-ditch tackle to deny the Irish striker a second before the one worry of the evening, when Hoban fell awkwardly on his left shoulder and seemed to be struggling for the last ten minutes, even if he was typically brave in persevering through to the final whistle.
Matt McClure was denied by a block from the imposing Dunkley on 71 but otherwise United were largely untroubled as Buchel chalked up his second clean sheet in the competition. A clean sheet, cup progress and a finishing XI that had four local lads (Cundy, George and subs Josh Ashby and Sam Humphreys) involved. What's not to like?
The U's will revisit this ground in ten days time for a league encounter. A win and league points that afternoon will ultimately be of more value to Michael Appleton's side, but a win is a win and the U's are just two rounds from a potential Wembley appearance.
Report by Chris Williams, pictures by Darrell Fisher, stats by Opta
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