Oxford United 0 Leyton Orient 1
The U's were beaten by the O's today as a Jobi McAnuff goal earned Leyton Orient all three points at the Kassam Stadium. McAnuff's second-half goal was enough to end United's recent run of good results while pushing Orient right into the play-off mix.
There were three changes to the side, with Benji Buchel, Joe Skarz and John Lundstram all returning to the starting 11. Orient, with player-manager Kevin Nolan looking to take responsibility in the centre of midfield, were direct in their approach, pumping the ball into the box and testing Buchel's handling and nerve but Johnny Mullins and Chey Dunkley dealt with everything that came their way, with full-backs Skarz and Jonjoe Kenny providing excellent support.
The opening half was cat and mouse with neither keeper having a shot to save, although some subtle touches from the elusive Chris Maguire threatened to open up the visiting defence at times. The pace and power of Jordan Bowery looked the most likely route to goal for the U's but the final ball just wouldn't quite run for United and too many loose passes made it hard for them to pick up their usual rhythm.
Orient had a back-post header from centre-half Shaun Brisley scrambled off the line in the 39th minute, Roofe bent an optimistic effort wide on 41 but the game remained stubbornly 0-0 at the break and continued to be cagey stuff for the first 20 minutes of the second, although United had raised the tempo and were dominating possession up until the hour mark. Roofe saw a free kick from the edge of the box saved by visiting keeper Alex Cisak but then the visitors started to build up a head of steam and take the game by the scruff of the neck.
Buchel must have thought he had made the save of the day with an excellent stop as sub Armand Gnanduillet ghosted in behind the defence but he couldn't beat the keeper from close range. However, the keeper's effort was surpassed on 71 when Skarz somehow dived to head a goal-bound effort from Sean Clohessy off the line when a goal seemed certain. Incredibly, Skarz was then able to throw himself in the way of another Clohessy shot from the follow up for an astonishing double save.
However, it was just a temporary let-off for the U's and on 74 it was the O's who found that decisive goal through McAnuff. Nicky Hunt's ball in somehow found McAnuff, who showed a little bit of composure to take a touch then drill past the helpless Buchel from eight-yards out.
United lacked their usual authority but almost snatched a draw on 88 minutes when clever play between Alex MacDonald and Liam Sercombe sent the latter through on goal, only for the shot to fly across the face of goal and harmlessly out for a goal kick. A late surge from Roofe drew a red card for Mathieu Baudry after a scything challenge, but the resulting free kick and plenty of pressure in time added on still failed to create a chance.
This extraordinary season has had plenty of ups and downs, but this was an opportunity squandered. United remain in the automatic promotion places and will now look to bounce back quickly when they welcome Dagenham & Redbridge to the Kassam Stadium on Tuesday night. This result makes that game even more important.
See you here.
Fifty 50 winning number 453266 wins £1,150
Report by Chris Williams, Pictures by Steve Daniels and Darrell Fisher
See Highlights and Reaction in Yellow Player