Oxford United 5 Bury 1
Oxford United kept their slim play-off hopes alive with an excellent 5-1 win over Bury this evening. Goals from Marvin Johnson, Joe Rothwell and a hat-trick from Conor McAleny eased them past the Shakers, who had just a James Vaughan header to show for their night's work.
United were just too strong in a terrific first half that will have had watching Coventry boss Mark Robins making copious notes ahead of Sunday’s Checkatrade Trophy final. The U’s created two good chances in the first 15 minutes; McAleny had the first when Johnson and Rothwell played a hat-trick of one-twos to allow the excellent Rothwell to cut the ball back. McAleny’s effort was well struck but wide of the mark. The second chance was a goal.
Chey Dunkley spread the ball from the centre circle to Johnson on the left. Bury, for reasons only known to themselves, backed off as Johnson ran at them. Having travelled 30 yards at gathering speed, Johnson didn’t have to swerve, dummy or feint, he just kept going right at the heart of the defence until he was in range to drill a low shot across keeper Joe Murphy and into the far corner of the net. A good goal from a United perspective and a poor one from the Shakers’.
Johnson was almost unplayable and saw a 20th-minute shot saved by Murphy when he let fly from 25 yards. Kane Hemmings then almost won Goal of the Season with a flashing effort across goal from a brilliant flick by Phil Edwards, always willing to join an attack.
Other than two long-range efforts and a wayward header from top scorer Vaughan, Bury were getting little change out of Chey Dunkley and Curtis Nelson and on 35 minutes they were all but out of it. Again it started with Johnson powering past two weak challenges and trying to slot a ball through for Hemmings. The pass was a little too strong but drew keeper Murphy out of his area, where the alert Rothwell robbed him and then clipped the ball back past the horrified keeper and two stranded defenders.
On 40 minutes it was three with another eye-catching goal. An outrageous flick from John Lundstram, a touch from Edwards, a shuffle from Rob Hall and the winger was through. His cut-back could have gone to any of three men inside the box but it was McAleny who received it to force the ball home from eight yards for his sixth goal since joining on loan from Everton.
Bury decided the only way to stop Johnson was to try and end his evening, Ryan Lowe guilty of a very late challenge from behind before the break, but three minutes into the second half they were um, buried, as Lundstram picked out fellow scouser McAleny just inside the area. Bury backed off and by the time they realised their mistake the ball was already past Murphy and into the bottom left corner to make it 4-0.
Perhaps understandably, United took their foot off the pedal after that, allowing Vaughan to take advantage with a thumping header from a Tom Walker corner that made it 4-1, but of more concern to the U's was Eastwood going down injured as he covered an innocuous-looking shot that was always creeping wide. Thankfully he was fine to carry on but the ground went strangely quiet while he got treatment!
Hall and subs Toni Martinez and Liam Sercombe had further efforts at goal but it was largely academic by then. Most of the damage had been done in the first half and it was just a case of holding steady, seeing things through and making sure of the three points. However, to cap a fine evening's work McAleny was at the far post to slide home Martinez's cross and make it 5-1 while completing his second hat trick of the season in injury time.
Michael Appleton had talked of needing six wins from the last seven games, now it is five from six.
This season will now take short break while Oxfordshire heads for Wembley.
To Be Continued...
Fifty/50 winning number 529680 wins £948
Report by Chris Williams, Pictures Darrell Fisher, Stats by OPTA
Highlights and Reaction in Yellow Player HD