A Ryan Taylor goal gave Oxford United a 1-0 win over Cambridge United this afternoon at the Kassam Stadium. The in-form striker's first-half finish kept the U's snapping at the heels of leaders Plymouth and sealed a win that should perhaps have been more comfortable than the scoreline suggests.
After scoring inside 30 seconds of their win at Dagenham in midweek, United should have repeated the trick when the excellent Danny Hylton met a Roofe cross and headed back across the keeper, only for Chris Dunn to adjust well and make a good save. Visiting skipper Mark Roberts then almost presented the Yellows with the opener when he slipped inside the penalty box, although he atoned by recovering in time to block Taylor’s effort. Alex MacDonald then had a shot pushed round the post by the over-worked Dunn after six minutes and the U’s (Oxford version) had dominated the opening exchanges.
Cambridge had a Rory Gaffney header well saved by Benji Buchel to settle any nerves that the keeper might have had on his league debut, reward for impressing in the last two cup games, and Harrison Dunk slammed a 19th-minute shot across the face of goal when well placed. That was probably Cambridge's best chance of the afternoon until an 88th-minute Barry Corr header was scrambled away at the foot of a post in a goalmouth scramble and then Corr had a second header hacked off the line from the following corner. The travelling U’s did enough to show that they will be a different proposition under new boss Shaun Derry, with some neat passing moves and the constant aerial threat of the experienced Corr as their focal point, but they were well handled by Buchel and his back line, who fully deserved their clean sheet despite late pressure from the visitors.
However, it was Oxford’s movement that caught the eye all afternoon and on 31 they scored the crucial strike through Taylor’s fourth goal in three games. Roofe did well to somehow salvage a ball that seemed lost, then slipped a beautifully weighted through ball for the galloping MacDonald to advance on the exposed Dunn. The keeper spread himself but MacDonald was too cute, cutting the ball back for Taylor who gleefully fired home his first goal at the Kassam Stadium. A well-worked goal, good enough to win any game.
Taylor almost teed up a second after 40 with a back-heel that Roberts reached a split second before Liam Sercombe with Dunn scrambling, and with confidence soaring, the former Portsmouth striker then guided a header just over the bar on 43 to end a half that had seen United on top.
They continued to make most of the running after the break and should really have been 2-0 up after 56 when Dunn slipped under pressure from Hylton and fouled the striker as he tried to go round him. Ref Keith Hill allowed the advantage and Hylton finally worked himself free but planted his shot against the bar from a tight angle.
Hylton was a handful all afternoon and one outrageous dummy saw him drift past the under-pressure visiting defence once more but he was unable to force the ball beyond Dunn from the left. The Yellows saw a Taylor effort ruled out for offside, a Roofe header saved and countless great positions come to nothing as they spread the ball wide and showed their customary composure on the ball. All that was missing was a second goal for a little breathing space, but the approach play was slick, the movement was fluid and the whole performance assured, despite those nervous last few minutes.
Today was Military Day. United are on the march.
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Report by Chris Williams, pictures by Steve Daniels, stats by Opta
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