Charlton Athletic 0 Oxford United 1
Oxford United roared back to close the gap on the teams in the play-offs with an excellent win at Charlton this evening. A brilliant first goal for the club from Conor McAleny earned the U's yet another away win as they bounced back immediately from an FA Cup defeat at Middlesbrough to put a very important three league points on the board.
There was a let off when Nathan Byrne rattled the bar with a 20-yard effort in just the fourth minute and the strong running of Arsenal loanee Stephy Mavididi caught the eye as Charlton started on the front foot but United held firm and gradually began to take over.
Joe Skarz was his usual steadying influence on his return to the side, with Marvin Johnson pushed further forward in front of him, but it was Skarz who was on the attack in the 12th minute to help United take the lead in stunning style. The left-back joined the attack and played a clever ball across for McAleny in space 30 yards out. There didn’t seem to be too much danger but the debutant needed no second invitation to let fly with a terrific low effort that ripped past Declan Rudd and was in the bottom left corner in a flash. A goal of the season contender if Rob Hall hadn’t already won it at Swindon.
Now Charlton dropped deeper and deeper as the U’s dominated and Phil Edwards should have made it 2-0 on 19 when he ghosted in unmarked to meet Johnson’s free kick, only to send the ball over the bar.
Charlton looked nervous at the back with their fans groaning at some of their misplaced passes, but having been fortunate not to go two down started to look more dangerous up front. There was a let off when Josh Magennis planted chance over the top on 23 minutes and Mavididi, Charlton’s most dangerous player, tested Eastwood with a 25-yard shot four minutes later. Jorge Teixeira headed another good chance over the top after 38 minutes, Ricky Holmes sent a free kick harmlessly into the noisy away fans via the wall, but United had been good value for their half-time lead.
They then had to show real grit to hold on to that lead as the Addicks piled on the pressure for 20 minutes after the break. One 30-second spell just before the hour saw Ledson block twice, the second one a painful blow that will have raised his voice by an octave, and sub Joe Aribo smacking a shot against the post with Eastwood for once beaten. Eastwood was smartly off his line to punch the ball from the forehead of Magennis as the home side pressed, but the U’s looked to have weathered the storm and on 70 minutes had an extra man to help their cause.
There had been one or two signs of frustration boiling up for the home side. Bauer was booked, rather geekily 24 minutes into the second half, but a minute later captain Chris Solly flew into a poorly timed challenge on his Oxford counterpart Lundstram to earn a straight red.
United still had to be on their guard against the counter attack but with room to work in they are a very difficult side to get the ball back from, Lundstram benefitting from a terrific performance by Ledson alongside him and Johnson relishing the space on the left flank. Edwards wasted two more chances, sub Kane Hemmings tested Rudd with a shot on the turn, Rob Hall roared past three defenders but could only find the side netting on 82 and Charlton looked a beaten side until with the last header of the night the heroic Ledson cleared a header off the line. PHEW!
Sung home by 700 fans who didn't stop all night, United had fully deserved their first ever league win at Charlton. The FA Cup is gone, but their league campaign is very much still alive.
Report by Chris Williams, pictures by Darrell Fisher, stats by OPTA
See extended highlights and video reaction in Yellow Player HD