Crawley Town 1 Oxford United 5
A superb second half earned Oxford United an important three points at Crawley this afternoon. Back in league action after their Wembley appearance last weekend, United's remarkable away form continued with two goals from Chris Maguire, one from Callum O'Dowda, one from Liam Sercombe and a first goal from George Waring, earning them an emphatic 5-1 win, all the more remarkable after falling behind in the first half.
Kemar Roofe’s midweek stomach bug meant a return to the side for Maguire on the left and O’Dowda moving into a position just behind Danny Hylton. It worked brilliantly, with O’Dowda drifting into space and Hylton looking to get in behind the Crawley back line, while Maguire’s clever touches gave United a different dimension.
The home side found it hard to cope with the movement from the very start and were almost breached in the tenth minute when O’Dowda’s run and Hylton’s flick sent Liam Sercombe in on goal, only for keeper Jack Rose to save well; this was the first of several good efforts that kept the score down for his side. There were shouts for a penalty after 17 when Hylton tricked his way past a defender and hit the deck, O’Dowda was denied by a brave block on 19 and the U’s had asked most of the early questions despite a couple of long range efforts at the other end, both off target.
However, there was a warning on 26 when a header from Joe McNerny was scrambled off the line, and a minute later the U’s were behind after another corner led to a scramble. Buchel parried the first shot but the ball wasn’t cleared and Gavin Tomlin had the presence of mind to tap the ball to his right rather than try and power the ball through two blocks. McNerny thumped the ball home and it was 1-0.
It triggered a short spell of pressure on the United defence but then a comeback that gathered momentum and on 39 minutes United were level. Alex MacDonald, excellent throughout, skinned his man on the right yet again and delivered a cross that flew past the men running towards the near post. Maguire, a class act, had hung back a little and when he gathered the ball on the left of the area he had the composure to take a touch, assess his options and bury the ball back across Rose for a terrific finish.
Now back in the ascendancy, the U’s saw Jonjoe Kenny elect to try a pass from ten yards out when he should have shot in the last action of the first half and Maguire drill an effort wide with the first effort of the second period.
However they were not to be denied for too long as they took control of the second 45 minutes. Just one minute 45 seconds into the half they were 2-1 up through another good goal. It was a clever flick from Hylton that opened the way and allowed O’Dowda to run on to it at pace and take the ball to the edge of the box. It was far from easy but his left-footed shot carried too much power for Rose who could only palm it into the corner of the net. Two goals in two games for the Kidlington Kid and I’m sure the fans he celebrated with behind the goal will pay any fine for the yellow card that followed!
Five minutes later and it was 3-1 and the party was in full swing. Hylton had been fired up by a spot of wrestling with defender Josh Yerworth moments earlier and when he received a cushioned header from Maguire he exacted revenge by dribbling past his man and flicking the ball through for Sercombe, who stabbed his shot past Rose to make it 3-1. The entire team celebrated with the fans, except Hylton, who was smiling his way past the home defence…
He would probably have been doing cartwheels if he had scored on the hour mark after racing from half way, beating the last man but then seeing Rose push his shot away. That was the first of two overloaded breakaways with two on one that time and three on two five minutes later, when Sercombe fed MacDonald but his shot came back off the inside of the left-hand post.
Hylton always runs himself ragged but this time also did the same to the home defence, who were sick of the sight of him by the time he raced though on 70 but couldn't beat the overworked Rose from ten yards out. Never mind, wait a couple of minutes and another chance will come. Maguire on the right, ghosted past his man and was brought down. Clearly a penalty and to cap a great day Maguire converted from the spot to make it 4-1 and ensure that United would wipe any memories of Wembley away and march on in second place.
Such was the dominance that Hylton and O'Dowda, tormentors in chief, could be rested for the last 15 minutes as Crawley gave up the ghost. George Waring and James Roberts came on, followed soon after by Josh Ashby after a nasty looking challenge on the excellent Josh Ruffels. Cue Roberts to wriggle free on the right and fire in a low cross which Waring got across his man for to force the ball past the despairing Rose and make it five goals on the road.
A terrific afternoon for the Yellow Army and the perfect way to start the final half-dozen games. We have been telling you for a while: NOW IS THE TIME. Oxford United need you for the last five games. First up is a home game against Luton Town. Be part of it.
See you there.
Report by Chris Williams, pictures Darrell Fisher,
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