Fast-starting Oxford United went through to the third round draw of the Carabao Cup with a 3-0 win at Newport County this evening. Two goals in the first four minutes - an own goal and a fine strike by Shandon Baptiste - plus an injury-time goal from top scorer Gavin Whyte, were enough to send the U's through to Thursday evening's draw despite a late red card for Jamie Hanson.
United made what must surely be their fastest ever start: remarkable against a side that had won their last six home games. With just 90 seconds on the clock the recalled Baptiste went past his man on the left wing and then set the also returning Luke Garbutt free with a cute back heel. The on-loan Everton man fired a low cross into the six yard box and Mickey Demetriou inexplicably knocked it past his own startled keeper for an own goal.
Two minutes later and it got even better for Karl Robinson's side. This time Baptiste cut out the middle man entirely for his first senior goal. Playing with freedom and confidence, the young midfielder came inside from his nominal left-wing starting point, beat a man on the inside this time and rifled the ball inside the left-hand post with keeper Nick Townsend beaten twice before most of his teammates had even touched the ball.
United took four games to get their first two goals of the season and now had two in the first four minutes; Jon Obika and Rob Dickie even had further half chances before we got to six minutes and Newport must have been wondering what had hit them.
Ruffels and Hanson blasted long-range efforts off target and other than a Jamille Matt header that drifted well wide and a flick at the near post from the same player, Jonny Mitchell had a largely untroubled first half in the United goal despite the home side recovering from their shaky start and gradually starting to apply pressure.
The biggest danger after their lightning start was perhaps that complacency could set in and United would start overplaying, but the hard-working Ruffels and Hanson in midfield kept tackling and plugging holes where needed before trying to drive their team forward, and the U’s had been largely in control of the first 45 minutes.
They might have been three up late in the first half when Garbutt and Sam Smith, playing just behind Obika, both made good connections with goalbound efforts that were repelled first by Townsend and then by a covering defender, but United had been excellent and had definitely built on their win over Burton on Saturday.
It could have become awkward had Newport got one goal back, but they found John Mousinho and Dickie a hard barrier to break down as the U's threw themselves into the task of earning their second clean sheet of the season, the first being in the first round win over Coventry. However, with ten minutes to go Hanson threw himself in to a challenge with Antoine Semenyo and was shown a straight red by ref Scott Duncan to set up an anxious finale for the ten-man U's.
Sam Long was thrown on to add steel in the middle of the park and shore things up, with Newport throwing everything at them and with nothing to lose. Left-back Dan Butler bent an 88th-minute free kick just wide with their best opportunity but United were solid despite the man disadvantage, while the pace of Whyte gave them a useful outlet and he twice forced the keeper into decent saves in the final few minutes. That danger on the counter finally led to a third in injury time when Henry (of course) started things, Garbutt picked up his second assist of the night with another clever cross and Whyte touched home at the near post to send the U's through.
A fine win on a ground that has become a bit of a fortress for Michael Flynn's side. United, winners of the competition in 1986, march on and back-to-back wins, whatever the competition, can only boost confidence as the season picks up speed.
Report by Chris Williams, pictures by Steve Daniels , stats by OPTA