Morecambe v Oxford United
Oxford United picked up an important three points with a 4-2 win at Morecambe this afternoon. Having led through Kemar Roofe's 19th goal of the season, the U's were pegged back before the break but showed great character to recover and fire three further goals past the ten-man Shrimps from John Lundstram, Danny Hylton and Jordan Bowery.
It took nine minutes for the opening goal, and what a fine one it was. Chris Maguire was the architect with a well-flighted ball across the area from deep. Hylton ran under it so it reached Alex MacDonald on the far side of the box. He opted to cross first time on the volley and that left Roofe, unmarked six yards out, with the simple task of finishing the move with a first-time effort past home keeper Barry Roche for his 19th of the season.
Sercombe and Roofe had further efforts go close in the next two minutes as the Yellows ran the show, playing some great first-time football despite a heavy pitch that made it tough to run with the ball. The always-dangerous Johnny Mullins tested Roche’s handling from a 21st-minute corner with a powerful header, Jonjoe Kenny got forward on 23 for a shot, and Benji Buchel hadn’t really touched the ball when he was beaten on 22 and Morecambe made it 1-1 with their first effort of the afternoon.
Molyneux was about to be subbed due to a groin injury when he picked the ball up 25 yards out. Always dangerous, Molyneux had space and the vision to chip the ball over the stranded Buchel with his last touch before he was taken off.
United rallied and Roofe headed a MacDonald cross just over the bar on 27 but the goal had lifted Morecambe and the game was far more even for the rest of the half as the Shrimps had their best spell of the match.
It was a different story after the break. Alan Goodall had an early effort saved by Buchel but then the Yellows recovered their swagger.
Roofe twisted his knee when trying to hurdle a challenge from Andy Parrish and followed fellow-scorer Molyneux off the pitch, replaced by Bowery; one of three quick substitutions as the U's tried to force the pace. Those changes played a huge part in what was to follow.
Replacements Zeli Ismail and Callum O'Dowda became the wide men and United started to get at the home side, which was already happening before Morecambe were reduced to ten men. Joe Skarz was always winning the race for a loose ball but Shaun Miller threw himself in for a needless challenge that caught Skarz high and late and left ref Peter Bankes with no option other than a straight red.
It changed the game.
Now firmly on the front foot, United lay siege and on 71 were back in front thanks to a moment of quick thinking from skipper Jake Wright. When an O'Dowda corner was only cleared as far as the captain, Wright took a touch and chose to pass to his left for Lundstram rather than shoot. Lundstram gratefully latched on to the pass and fired it ruthlessly into the roof of the net to make it 2-1.
Two minutes later and the game was sealed when another O'Dowda corner went right across the box and was powered goalwards by Mullins. Roche saved but could only push the ball on to the onrushing Hylton, who merrily bundled it home for his third goal in a week.
3-1 up and facing ten men, the U's were on their way to an important win and on 80 were home and hosed when the excellent Sercombe slipped the ball between left centre-half and left back for the powerful Bowery to burst clear. Roche came out but Bowery smashed the ball past him to make it 4-1 with his second goal for the club.
A 4-1 away win with four different scorers and all thoughts of Wembley firmly locked away for now. Roche made two good saves from Lundstram piledrivers but the points were in the bag by then, meaning that when Tom Barkhuizen hooked home a 90th-minute corner it was purely academic.
Morecambe will look back at the red card as the turning point, but United had used their subs to great effect and have a talented, committed squad who are all playing their part. The gap to fourth widens, and on Tuesday night they welcome leaders Northampton Town to the Kassam Stadium for one of the games of the season.
See you there.
Report by Chris Williams, pictures by Darrell Fisher, stats by Opta
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