United end away season with a win at Millwall. Full-time report
Oxford United ended their away campaign with an excellent 3-0 win at promotion-seeking Millwall this afternoon. Two early goals from Conor McAleny and a second-half header from Josh Ruffels sealed a terrific win for the U's.
Millwall, needing a win to keep their play-off charge going, were stunned to find themselves two goals down inside nine minutes. You could sense the air of expectancy being sucked out of the Den from the moment that McAleny struck in the sixth minute. It was neat build-up initially with the excellent Ruffels at the heart of it and a final clipped ball in to the feet of the Everton loanee 25 yards from goal. The Lions backed off and McAleny turned and drove the ball with terrific power and accuracy into the bottom left corner.
A great goal, and two minutes later there was an even better one. This time Lundstram floated the ball to the left and McAleny, nominally playing left wing, drifted past his man and repeated the trick by hammering the ball across keeper Archer and into the bottom right corner. Ten goals this season for McAleny and almost all of them have been outstanding strikes from the young man.
Any question of United coasting to the end of the season had been answered emphatically and the pace and movement of the front four was causing Millwall all manner of problems. Chris Maguire was the fulcrum, leading the line and picking passes at will for wide men Canice Carroll (terrific once again) and McAleny, while the pace of Marvin Johnson added another dimension.
Simon Eastwood had one of his quietest 90 minutes of the season, protected superbly by the back four, and the expected cavalry charge from the home side after the break didn’t really materialize. When Player of the Season Steve Morison did get a sight of goal, Eastwood was swiftly off his line to block his shot on the hour, but opposite number Archer needed to make just as good a save two minutes later as Johnson let fly from 20 yards out.
Curtis Nelson and Charlie Raglan stood firm as the Lions tried to claw their way back into the game, full backs Christian Ribeiro and Joe Skarz using all of their experience to cover the central duo and cut out the crosses, and on 70 minutes that defensive fortitude paid off when Ruffels ended the game as a contest. Simple as you like, Maguire's corner to the back post and in came Ruffels to bury his header past Archer. Bullseye.
The intimidating atmosphere of 3pm was by now a quiet air of resignation for the home fans, although their side retain their play-off spot with one game left. They will have an afternoon of drama next Sunday, no doubt, while United will end with a final home game against Shrewsbury.
The U's have been superb away from home this season, both team and supporters. This was another outstanding performance that promises so much for next season...
Report by Chris Williams, pictures by Darrell Fisher, Stats by OPTA
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