Oxford United's season is up and running. After four defeats in the first four games the Yellows showed their true colours to record their first win thanks to goals from John Mousinho, James Henry and Ricky Holmes, with a Marvin Sordell goal merely a consolation for Burton Albion.
There was one change to the line-up with Sam Smith coming in to the side, but United have stuck to their footballing principles despite their sticky start and again played some nice football right from the start.
It was (probably) a defender who put them ahead on 18 minutes. Marcus Browne, excellent once again, won a free kick out of the left after bulldozing through three challenges, and then took responsibility for the dead ball. Taking aim for the far post with a wickedly flighted cross, Browne’s ball was flicked past keeper Stephen Bywater by the merest touch from former Brewer John Mousinho. Did he touch it? Only he knows, but he certainly celebrated as though he did and Mousinho is one of the most honest players you will find, so we’ll give it to him.
Burton may have felt a little hard done by to be behind at that stage because they looked neat on the ball and saw plenty of it, although there were only a handful of off-target efforts from outside the area to show for it. United, on the other hand, might have doubled their lead twice when first James Henry and then Gavin Whyte raced past the visiting defence but couldn’t find the finishing touch after good approach play.
Having not taken either chance United were made to pay shortly afterwards, when Burton bounced back to draw level. A routine free kick to the back post saw Ben Turner rise suspiciously above his man to nod the ball down. United scrambled but the ball bobbled the way of Sordell and he bundled it past the stranded Mitchell to level things at the break. It might have been worse had Liam Boyce not drilled a further effort just wide of the post after 41 minutes.
What United needed was a quick start in the second half and they got just that on 50 minutes with their second of the afternoon. The elusive Gavin Whyte, whose pace and direct running are a great weapon for United this season, ran at the defence and pushed it through for Smith on the edge of the box. He curled a fine effort across the keeper and Bywater did well to get a glove to it, but the ball ran only as far as Henry who smashed it back past the keeper for his first of the season.
Visibly growing in confidence and with their magnificent fans once again singing for the full 90 minutes United were on top and Bywater was almost beaten by one of his own players as a dangerous cross zipped across the six yard box. Whyte ran across the edge of the box on 62 but dragged his left-footed effort wide of the far post and most of the play was in the Burton half. A goal was on the cards and the relief around the ground was tangible when Holmes hammered home the killer third goal.
Henry was, as usual, the creator, working his way into a shooting position on the edge of the box and then picking the ball up when it came back to him. Entitled to shoot, he instead selflessly worked it to his left for Holmes to clinically plant the ball past Bywater for his first Oxford goal, scored with his first touch of the game,
Burton had been less of a threat after the break while United had balance and purpose. On the left, Josh Ruffels and Browne (and then Holmes) linked up well, while down the right there is a growing understanding down what we shall refer to here, for all our Northern Irish fans, as the Norman-Whyte side. Sorry. First win. Carried away. Won't happen again.
This is a young United side: Jamie Hanson and Cameron Brannagan, for example, in the midfield are having to forge a partnership in the heat of battle and it was always going to take time for things to settle down. Today there were encouraging signs all over the park; ignore the late yellow for Jamie Allen, sent off for two yellow cards in a brief substitute appearance. That didn't change the result and should not take anything away from United's performance.
Right. That's that out of the way. Let's start again.
Report by Chris Williams, pictures by Steve Daniels, stats by OPTA, Norman Whiteside joke by Kath Faulkner