Maguire the hero as United delight sell-out crowd
Chris Maguire was the hero as Oxford United made it six derby wins in a row with a fully deserved 2-0 win over Swindon Town this afternoon. A goal in each half from the flying Scotsman eased United home against a Robins side who ended with nine men in front of a jubilant sell-out crowd.
As expected, the whole game was played at a million miles an hour as the rousing atmosphere got everyone's pulses running. In among the blood and thunder there was a new shape for the U's to a 4-2-3-1 system: Lundstram and Rothwell sitting, Maguire, Sercombe and Johnson joining Wes Thomas from deeper, but there was no change in tempo or application.
Tormentor in chief Maguire, all but unplayable on the day, smashed the first effort over, Lundstram's outrageous effort from near the half-way line went wide with keeper Lawrence Vigouroux watching, and the first 30 minutes were played predominantly in the Swindon half of the pitch. Phil Edwards came forward and sent in a low shot on 22 that tested Vigouroux again and the new shape was flexible enough to allow the full backs to join the attack when opportunity arose.
Swindon had a half-hearted effort from Luke Norris drift harmlessly wide with their one real chance of the first half on 24 but it was Maguire again at the other end who forced a good save from the hard-working Vigouroux at the end of a flowing move begun by the industrious Rothwell on 28. Unsurprisingly, on a day of steady rain there were slips and misplaced passes from both sides and it was not a day to mistime your tackle.
On 42 it was Conor Thomas who got things wrong for the Robins. Sercombe came at the defender and dinked the ball inside him, inviting a challenge. Out came the leg, over went Sercombe and ref Stuart Attwell was pointing to the spot. Step forward Maguire. Never a doubt, and Cult Hero status assured as he danced in front of the away end pointing gleefully at the name on the back of his shirt.
The Robins had not got going in that half but might have drawn level when John Goddard latched on to a loose ball but was unable to beat the alert Simon Eastwood. Vigouroux needed to be just as good a minute later as Rothwell let fly from 25 yards with an effort destined for the far corner until the keeper reached it at full stretch.
At that point a goal might have made it a proper contest but cometh the hour, cometh Maguire. There seemed little danger as Sercombe prodded the ball forward. Surely the keeper had it covered? Maguire thought otherwise. The Scottish winger chased a lost cause, slid with his back to goal and when the keeper tried to clear all he did was strike it against the prone Maguire, whose perseverance paid off as the ball flew into the empty net to spark wild celebrations.
After five wins in a row the game now settled into a pleasingly familiar pattern, with Swindon losing a man as well as hope. With 64 minutes gone Lloyd Jones slid in to take revenge on Sercombe, leaving Attwell no option other than a second yellow and red combination. Four derbies in a row where a red card has been shown. All we needed was a man in a green coat doing a frustrated frog impression down on his haunches and the day would have been complete.
Swindon had it confirmed that it wasn't to be their day when Darnell Furlong could only lift their best chance into the car park, but if you see beyond a derby and look at the bigger picture, United were making it two good home wins and two clean sheets in a row as they continue to gather momentum.
It might have been three when Johnson, excellent on his full debut, steered a shot into the side-netting with Maguire imploring him to square the ball to him on 82. MacDonald also went close when only a last-gasp raise of the hand from Vigouroux kept his chipped effort out. Just to add to the fun, Vigoroux's miserable afternoon ended early when he lashed out at sub Alex MacDonald after a strong challenge in injury time.
It didn't really matter. The U's had earned their victory. Flags flew as they received their ovation and the facts are clear: six wins from six derby games, never beaten by their nearest rivals at the Kassam Stadium, and the Robins have yet to score against them at Grenoble Road. Enjoy the bragging rights United fans.
Fifty/50 winning number 479805 wins £1767
Report by Chris Williams, Pictures by Steve Daniels, Stats by OPTA
See Highlights and Reaction in Yellow Player