League title within United's graspOxford United's under-18s moved a giant step closer to winning the Merit League 2 title with a 3-2 win against MK Dons at Northcourt Road this afternoon. A Shandon Baptiste goal was cancelled out before the break, but two Canice Carroll penalties gave Oxford enough breathing space that they didn't have to worry about an injury-time penalty for the opposition.
The U's are now five points clear of second-placed Dons, who have just one game remaining, and can now only be caught by Cambridge United, who have to win their last three matches and hope that Oxford lose their last two games.
After a nervy opening, Oxford took an early lead after some good build-up play by Graham Bryan, who was clipped as he skipped past the MK Dons right-back. The referee allowed an advantage and Bryan took the ball on before knocking the ball across the area, where Baptiste launched himself full length to head the ball beyond the reach of the goalkeeper.
United held the lead until midway through the first half when some hesitant defending allowed a cross to come in from the Milton Keynes right. The ball was knocked back across goal where the waiting striker calmly stroked the ball past Jack Stevens.
Four minutes later the visiting keeper did well to keep out a Seth Humphries shot and on the hour Baptiste sent substitute Dejon Noel-Williams away for a one-on-one but his delayed shot was kept out by the goalie. There was no let up for the visitors, and they were fortunate when Baptiste's shot in the 69th minute was straight at a defender on the goalline.
The reprieve was short lived, however, as just a minute later Bryan charged into the penalty area and was upended, allowing Carroll to convert his second penalty of the afternoon to virtually seal the result.
It was still all Oxford as Baptiste's long-range drive flew just over before Miles Welch-Hayes headed Bryan's free kick just wide. With the game in stoppage time MK Dons had their first second-half shot on target after Hawtin felled an MK Dons striker and they scored from the resultant penalty.
Leon Blackmore-Such told us: "We sat off them too much in the first half and allowed them to play out from the back. We upped the intensity in the second period and limited a lot of their chances from open play. In the end though it was a good three points and we know we need just one more to guarantee the title."
United: Stevens, Welch-Hayes, Carroll, McCormack, Hawtin, Hartley (Hastings 66), Humphries (Graham 78), Baptiste, Hayden, Bryan, Jeacock (Noel-Williams 37)