Oxford United's unbeaten home run was ended in a six-minute burst from visitors Barnet this afternoon. Two first-half goals from Liam Sercombe were made to count for nothing as Curtis Weston, John Akinde and Josh Clarke scored in quick succession to leave Barnet as the first visiting team to win at the Kassam Stadium since March.
Any thoughts that the win over league leaders Plymouth on Tuesday might have taken something out of the United legs were dispelled in a breathless first 45 minutes. The opener came after just 13 minutes when Sercombe repeated his trick from that game in scoring the opener. A short corner routine from Alex MacDonald and Jordan Graham allowed Graham to cross and when the ball ran to Sercombe ten yards out he buried it beyond keeper Jamie Stephens and into the roof of the net to make it 1-0.
Graham, coming into the side after Ryan Taylor was ruled out with a groin injury picked up in training on Friday, has forged an instinctive partnership with George Baldock and the pair were causing Barnet all sorts of problems down that side of the pitch as the Yellows knocked the ball around sweetly. It seemed that their slick football was going to delight the home crowd once again, but clearly nobody had told the visitors who were soon to turn the game on its head.
Barnet had a Curtis Weston effort go wide in the tenth minute and John Akinde booked a minute later for diving, but were getting the ball forward into the area as fast as possible. United were dealing with it well enough until three goals in six minutes ripped the form book up.
On 25 minutes a ball in from the left found Akinde who touched on, and the ball reached Weston who fired it across Sam Slocombe and into the far corner to make it 1-1. Three minutes later and another high ball in to the box caused United problems and when Jake Wright slipped the ball went to Akinde, who had acres of space to turn and plant it past the exposed Slocombe. If that wasn’t bad enough, United then found themselves 3-1 down after half an hour when Clarke raced clear from the right wing and powered his effort through Slocombe to give the Bees a huge advantage.
United had only conceded three goals at home all season yet Barnet had scored three in six crazy minutes and it had somehow become a massive test of character.
Ask the U’s a question and they generally come up with an answer. After 39 minutes Wright and Roofe freed Sercombe who skipped past the last defender, powered into the box and finished as cool as you like past keeper Jamie Stephens to make it 2-3 at the break and crucially close the gap to just one goal at half time.
Slocombe needed to save well from Clarke just before the break and Sercombe thought he had completed his hat trick right on the whistle with a shot that struck the inside of the post, but it has been an unbelievable half of football.
The fun continued in the second half with MacDonald almost levelling things after 55 with a storming run through the middle and a shot that Stephens did well to save. The ball squirmed to Roofe who scuffed his shot and allowed Stephens to get back and catch it on the line to complete an excellent double save.
A goalbound effort from Graham was deflected over the top via the back of Bondz N’Gala on 62, sub Patrick Hoban let a Graham cross slip away on 70 when well placed, and the second half was mostly one way traffic. The Bees were determined to take the sting out of the game at every opportunity, slowing things down and trying to stop the U's from building up a head of steam, but had to withstand a tremendous late push from the home side. Roofe fired over on 82, O'Dowda got the ball past Stephens on 84 but not past a covering defender, Lundstram sliced wide on 87, Roofe's shot was saved by Stephens on 89. Try as they might the U's just could not find another way past the stubborn purple barcode barrier of Barnet.
A brilliant win for Barnet - their first ever triumph over the U's in ten meetings - but United will look back on that crucial, uncharacteristic few minutes in the first half and wonder what might have been.
Report by Chris Williams, photos by Steve Daniels, Stats by OPTA
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