Oxford United v Bradford City
Oxford United became the first team to beat Bradford City this season when a Chris Maguire goal in the last minute sealed a 1-0 win that the U's deserved for an inspired second-half performance.
Injuries to Joe Skarz (shoulder) and Liam Sercombe (groin) meant a reshuffle and Josh Ruffels at left back with Ryan Taylor in front of him in a wide left role. That allowed Maguire to move infield and play in a free role behind Wes Thomas, and it was Maguire who came closest to an early goal with a dipping effort from the left edge of the area after some neat build-up play.
That effort was tipped over by Bantams keeper Colin Doyle who then had to be alert when Maguire thumped in a header in the 13th minute but it was the visitors who created the best two openings of the first half. With 20 minutes gone and Timothee Dieng under pressure from Phil Edwards, Charlie Raglan went to ground, prompting ref David Webb to award a penalty. Top scorer Billy Clarke went for power but hammered the ball off the bar and into the crowd rather than the back of the net. To the naked eye it looked impossible for Eastwood to have saved it but given his form it wouldn't surprise us on replay!
There was just as big a let off for the U’s just before the half hour when striker Jordy Hiwula got in behind the back line and had the freedom of the penalty area but chose to go for a spectacular volley when a little more composure would surely have brought the breakthrough.
Having ridden their luck, United might have made that breakthrough themselves on 33 when Alex MacDonald’s clever back heel set up Thomas, whose shot was blocked by Romain Vincelot. It was the striker’s last action before he was forced off through injury, replaced by Marvin Johnson just before the break.
The two number 11s traded chances in the second half, MacDonald and Hiwula both ghosting in at the back post but unable to make the right sort of contact on deep crosses, but the game had more tempo now and United were forcing Bradford to play on the counter attack. Maguire had penalty appeals turned away, Ruffels volleyed wide from 25 yards and sub Kane Hemmings was knocked off his stride just as he prepared to pull the trigger in the 70th minute.
The Yellows were excellent in the second half, roared on by their fans and asking most of the questions as second-placed Bradford clung on to the division's last unbeaten record. The imperious Chey Dunkley met a 75th-minute corner but couldn't force his header through a sea of legs, while his central defensive partner Charlie Raglan was inches away from side-footing home another corner from the other side a minute
Winning most of the challenges in midfield United worked extremely hard but Bradford are going to be a very hard side to break down this season and had managed to protect Doyle's goal. It was going to take a moment of magic...
As the clock ticked over on to 90 the U's won a free kick when captain Lundstram, surging into the box, was hauled back. Up stepped Maguire to ping the ball right footed over the wall and unerringly into the far corner to win the game.
Fully deserved - both as a team and by the scorer who had led by example.
An excellent afternoon's work.
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Report by Chris Williams, pictures by Steve Daniels, stats by OPTA