Oxford United 2 Scunthorpe United 1
Oxford United left it late to beat Scunthorpe United in dramatic fashion this afternoon. Trailing to a first-half goal from Paddy Madden, United responded with a spirited second half that saw captain John Lundstram crash home an equaliser before Phil Edwards won it with an injury-time strike,.
There were changes to the line-up after defeat at Oldham, as Joe Skarz, Liam Sercombe, Josh Ruffels, Toni Martinez and Joe Rothwell all returned to the starting XI. The U’s started well despite the changes and had a couple of half chances but on 11 minutes were behind to a well-crafted goal from the ever-dangerous Paddy Madden. Granted, he had space on the edge of the box but from the moment his curling effort left his right boot it was clear that Simon Eastwood had no chance of reaching it before it was nestling in the bottom-right corner.
Scunthorpe’s work rate was phenomenal, closing down the U’s and stopping them from building from the back, in turn breaking up their usual rhythm. That was not helped by a swirling wind either, but visiting keeper Luke Daniels had not been tested in the first half while it took a magnificent header from Skarz to stop Madden making it 2-0 at the break.
However, the corresponding game at Glanford Park and a Checkatrade Trophy game between the sides earlier in the season had shown how little there is to choose between the two sides and the U's deserved their point after an improved showing after the interval.
They won't have escaped a talking to at the break but it took only six minutes for them to get back into the game when they scored a brilliant team goal. Curtis Nelson sprayed a raking ball out to the left where Skarz looked up and pinged just as good a cross in to the box. Lundstram hardly had to break stride as he half-volleyed the ball home for an excellent goal, against his former club.
The captain, fresh from his first of the season, nearly doubled his tally with a clean strike that smashed against the crossbar soon after as the rejuvenated U's went for a winner; Lundstram at the heart of everything.
At the other end Eastwood, victim of a wardrobe malfunction but finally in all green in the second half, made two good saves from Madden as the Iron tried to keep their automatic promotion bid alive but the excellent back four of Edwards, Dunkley, Nelson and Skarz are an experienced quartet and kept funnelling the away team into blind alleys and away from danger.
It was tactical rather than spectacular but there looked to have been one golden chance at either end. United's came to Sercombe after 88 minutes when he ghosted into the box in typical fashion but could not guide his volley past the dive of Daniels. At the other end Madden ran clear but wasted his side's final opportunity by blasting wide from the edge of the box. Then there was drama.
Corner to United which drifts to the back post. Nelson recycles it and smashes the ball low and true into the bottom-left corner. Edwards gets a touch to deflect it home and the ref (eventually) waves away protests of offside from the Scunthorpe players.
Frankly it didn't matter, United had won and the play-off dreams are still alive,
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Report by Chris Williams, pictures by Steve Daniels, stats by OPTA
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