Chesterfield 0 Oxford United 4
Conor McAleny fired home a hat-trick as Oxford United ran riot at Chesterfield this afternoon. The on-loan Everton forward scored two unbelievable goals, plus a calm finish to take home the match ball, with Rob Hall scoring the other as the City of Dreaming Spires triumphed over the Spireites.
There was a real intensity to United right from the start of the game, driven forward by Josh Ruffels and Liam Sercombe as a new-look midfield pairing, although the Spireites had a couple of early half chances go harmlessly wide of the mark before Man of the Match McAleny had the first effort on target of the afternoon, planting the ball too close to home keeper Thorsten Stuckmann in the ninth minute.
Wide men Chris Maguire and Hall were tormenting their defenders and after 17 minutes it was Hall who fired them in front. Toni Martinez paved the way with a smart turn and run down the left channel on to a Joe Skarz through ball. The on-loan West Ham striker showed great maturity as he bore down on the keeper to square the ball for Hall, who turned down the chance to fire home with his first touch, instead dummying the whole defence and then simply passing into the empty net for an expertly taken goal.
Simon Eastwood needed to make a good save to keep out a Kristian Dennis effort on 23 and Sylvan Ebanks-Blake was unlucky with a snap shot on the turn after 32 minutes that flew over the bar but on 35 minutes McAleny showed them both how to do it with a second quality strike in a week.
It all stemmed from Maguire sliding in to try and close down the keeper. He was unsuccessful but Stuckmann’s clearance was unconvincing and United were on it like a pack of wolves, hounding the defence and regaining the ball through Edwards. Hall, Ruffels and Sercombe moved it forward at pace and them McAleny showed brilliant technique to smash the bouncing ball into the top-left corner for a spectacular goal to give his side a 2-0 lead.
Chesterfield had been brave with a 3-4-3 shape but now switched to 4-4-2 to try and stop United’s supply in the wide areas. It didn't work as planned and they could have been 3-0 down inside the first couple of minutes of the second half as Stuckmann made good saves from Martinez and a Nelson header to keep his side in it.
Chesterfield, desperate for points at the wrong end of the table, started to throw men forward but United held the upper hand and on the hour were 3-0 up and home and hosed as McAleny put pressure on himself for Goal of the Season. Again the Yellows stormed forward with Sercombe prepared to carry the ball. Once it reached McAleny the Spireites seriously needed to get close to him, but instead backed off and invited a shot from distance. Big mistake. Boom, 3-0 and who knows which of his goals this week has been the most impressive?
And still he wasn’t finished. Sixty-nine minutes and the non-stop U’s hunted down the home defence once again, Sercombe stealing the ball and leaving McAleny to run free and coolly plant the ball home for a wonderful hat trick to cap a brilliant team performance from the Us.
It could have been even more: Maguire and Marinez both got one on one with the keeper but couldn't force the ball home - the second with Chey Dunkley alongside after running the length of the pitch to join in. Sercombe volleyed wide at the back post in the last minute but other than goal difference it was academic by then.
Chesterfield had been run ragged and knew it: United's fitness and work ethic shone through once again and their 960 away followers had thoroughly enjoyed their day out.
Six wins from seven games on the road in the league; clean sheet, hat-trick, 4-0 win: was this the best of the lot?
Report by Chris Williams, pictures by Darrell Fisher, stats by OPTA
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