Oxford United 3 Macclesfield Town 0
Oxford United made safe progress into the third round of the FA Cup with a 3-0 win over ten-man Macclesfield Town tonight. Having struggled through the original tie, the U's made no mistake at the second attempt as goals from Ryan Taylor, Joe Rothwell and Kane Hemmings sent them through to a third round tie away at Rotherham United.
There was the worst possible start when centre-half Aaron Martin’s evening lasted barely a minute before he slipped and fell to the ground clasping his ankle in obvious discomfort. Wretched luck for the former Coventry stopper who left the field on a stretcher; hopefully the injury is not as serious as it appeared but it was the one downside on an otherwise highly encouraging evening.
In the first game United started slowly but this time even the disruption from the injury couldn’t stop them as they set off with far more purpose and took an early advantage through Taylor. Alex MacDonald started the move with a cross from the right after a glorious crossfield pass from Tyler Roberts. The cross was half blocked but when an attempted clearance cannoned his way Taylor was on it in a shot to stab a left-footed effort across keeper Ross and into the far corner to make it 1-0.
Macclesfield stuck to their guns and were still in it; Jack Mackreth almost took advantage of some hesitant defending in the 20th minute before the pace of the excellent Marvin Johnson got him across to cover. However they were mightily relieved when an Alex MacDonald free kick flew away off the crossbar with Ross beaten.
Danny Rowe half-volleyed a presentable chance over the top on 27 for the visitors but for most of the first half they were having to show their defensive rather than attacking qualities and their task was made much harder a minute before the break when Mitch Hancox brought down Tyler Roberts in the centre circle to earn a second yellow and an early bath.
Taylor might have extended the lead before the break when he ended a superb quick break involving Roberts and Hall with a curling effort that Ross got down well to save, but the U’s were in control at the break despite only being one goal up.
It didn’t take too long for them to double the advantage. Rothwell is always bright and inventive in midfield and it was a little surprising that it had taken him so long to score his first goal. On 47 minutes he raced clear on to another clever touch from Roberts and showed great composure to pass the ball beyond Ross to make it 2-0 and all but confirm United’s progress.
There was a moment of alarm when some of the lights dimmed but United were still shining bright. Roberts and Hall forced Ross into an excellent double save on 55 minutes, Phil Edwards (always a threat from right back) dragged a shot just wide, Rothwell had another effort bravely blocked, Taylor slid the ball in when offside and Rothwell again got behind the defence but scuffed his shot across the face of goal on 70.
The irrepressible MacDonald powered through three challenges on 75 and not only could have gone over for a penalty after each but will now have to look up irrepressible in a dictionary.
There were more goals there for the taking and on 78 sub Hemmings was on hand for another simple-looking finish after Johnson - unplayable on the night - had come inside and Taylor had flicked into Hemmings' path. A poacher's goal from a striker starting to find the net on a regular basis.
MacDonald rattled the bar again with a terrific dipping effort from 20 yards but the icing on the cake came when 17-year-old local lad Canice Carroll was handed a debut for the closing stages. The first of many games to come.
Credit to Macclesfield, whose ten men fought for everything. Paul Lewis thumped a header wide with their best opening of the match but in truth their best chance had been in the first match when they were the better side for long periods of the game.
They will concentrate on their play-off hopes in the National League while United go into the new year still fighting on three fronts: Trophy, league and FA Cup.
Fifty/50 winning number 501334 wins £585
Report by Chris Williams, pictures by Steve Daniels, Stats by Opta