Oxford United's fantastic run continued after a 2-0 win over Blackpool this afternoon. An own goal from Ollie Turton (or a goal from Marcus Browne depending on your vantage point) and James Henry's 11th goal of the season eased the U's up to 18th in the League 1 table and made it just one defeat in 14 games.
United, unchanged for the fifth game in a row, played like a team brimming with confidence and some of their passing and movement were a joy to behold in the first half, aided by a strong wind at their back on a bitterly cold December afternoon.
However, the conditions played a big part in a first half hour that saw few goalmouth incidents until Browne, or his marker perhaps, gave United the lead and opened up the game.
Browne had looked the most likely source of a goal all afternoon. An early free kick went well over in the sixth minute, a curling effort from the West Ham loanee went wide after 15 and United were on top. Simon Eastwood was well protected by his back four at the other end and Josh Ruffels made an important interception when the Tangerines did threaten with a low ball across the box on 21 minutes.
However, Browne was not to be denied and as we approached the half hour a weak clearance only went as far as James Henry who hung up a deep cross to the back post which Blackpool stood and watched. Browne was braver and got above his man to head home and make it 1-0; his aerial power at the back post is a very useful weapon for the U’s as well as his obvious talents with the ball at his feet. The suspicion is that it was his marker Ollie Turton who actually headed it home but Browne was the one forcing the issue.
It is Henry who has been the key to United’s revival though, his switch to midfield proving a masterstroke and meaning that he can time his runs into the area and add one more threat to an already dangerous United attack. On 41 it Cameron Brannagan who got United going, spreading the ball wide for Gavin Whyte who didn’t try and beat his man, just rolled it across the box for Henry who let fly for his eleventh of an increasingly profitable season.
Blackpool stepped up after the break, the appearance of former Oxford loanee Armand Gnanduillet giving them more of a threat in the second half and left-back Marc Bola posing a huge threat down the sides, but United were resilient and the Tangerines still hadn't had a shot on target after an hour.
United meanwhile saw a Jamie Mackie effort saved after 70 minutes after some good work from the excellent Josh Ruffels and with a two-goal cushion they were able to defend stoutly and look to hit Blackpool on the break through the pace of Browne and Whyte.
There were scares when Heneghan almost headed in at the back post but Blackpool had failed to take advantage of the strong wind in the second half and United had once again been the better side for long periods of the game.
Another good result, another step forward and United step in to Christmas in good shape.
Report by Chris Williams, pictures by Steve Daniels