Oxford United 2 Port Vale 0
Oxford United pushed Port Vale deeper into relegation problems this afternoon as goals from Josh Ruffels and Chris Maguire earned them a 2-0 win over the Valiants.
Vale had the first few efforts of the day, Daniel Pugh dragging a fourth-minute effort well wide, and JJ Hooper heading even wider from even closer after 11. Simon Eastwood was called into action a minute later to push away a Ryan Taylor effort and the keeper then did very well to claw away Taylor’s corner as well, so the Valiants were certainly up for the fight.
When you are at the bottom of the table you need to make those chances count though and sure enough on 14 minutes the U’s went forward and punished them by scoring with their first effort of the afternoon. Marvin Johnson was given too much space on the edge of the box and smashed in a dipping left-footed effort that keeper Deniz Mehmet got both hands to but only palmed into the path of the delighted Ruffels, who slammed it home for his first ever goal at Grenoble Road
That deflated the visitors and United started to apply serious pressure. Mehmet needed to make a good save to stop another Johnson effort on the half hour and then another block five minutes later from the same player after a Taylor back header had sold his keeper short. Taylor then got his body in the way to keep a Rothwell shot away from goal and United were very much on top despite plenty of effort from Michael Brown's visitors.
Brown's side had fought tigerishly and raised the tempo even more after the break, with Eastwood again having to make saves, the best of them from a Remi Streete header just before the hour. Mehmet had matched that with a good save from Conor McAleny and it was good end-to-end stuff. Mehmet made another good save from McAleny, sub Kane Hemmings did everything right as he drove at the defence but then rolled his shot the wrong side of the post and Phil Edwards (back in the side at right back) nodded a corner just wide on 72.
However, at the other end Vale were only denied by an offside flag when Streete's header came back off the post and was knocked into the empty net by sub Daniel Turner and Eastwood made another outstanding save from Turner with 12 minutes to go as Vale continued to try all they could to ensure this fixture returns next season. Had either of those been made to count then who knows? But instead it was Maguire who decided the game when he galloped half the length of the pitch, sized up his options, and opted to take the simplest one, firing past Mehmet to double the lead and give United all three points.
Credit to the visitors, who showed plenty of effort and will fight to the end; Eastwood made another outstanding save in the last minute to deny captain Sam Foley. United, however, have nothing to fight for but did so with everything they have. Clinical in both boxes, they were deserved winners of this game.
Report by Chris Williams, pictures by Steve Daniels, Stats by OPTA
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