Oxford United's impressive form continued with a comprehensive 3-0 win over Spurs in the Checkatrade Trophy this evening. Goals from Charlie Raglan, Sam Smith and Tony McMahon eased the U's past a talented young Spurs side and sent United through to face Cheltenham Town in the next round.
United made much of the running - or maybe DID much of the running - at the start as a fast-moving Spurs side knocked the ball around and showed fantastic technique in the early stages, but almost all of it was in their own half as United pressed them all over the park and gradually got on top.
The U’s certainly had the two best chances in the opening exchanges; McMahon sent a free kick into the side netting and Smith headed over from a James Henry cross.
It didn’t take long for the opener to come along though. Twelve minutes on the clock and McMahon, whose delivery is always dangerous, floated a simple free kick towards the penalty spot. Raglan got up above his man like he wasn’t there and his header made it 1-0 just inside the right-hand post. Five minutes later and it was 2-0 with a similar goal. The principal difference was that it was an outswinging cross this time, delivered by Luke Garbutt and met by Smith who flicked home to make it 2-0 and highlight a key difference in approach: Pretty Football 0, Set Pieces 2.
Henry and Brannagan had good strikes from distance and United continued to close Spurs down quickly and limit their space, although they were grateful to captain Simon Eastwood who flew off his line to make an excellent save from Kazaiah Sterling after the forward broke free on the half-hour mark.
Had Spurs scored at that stage then who knows, they may have got fully back into the game, but United are more than capable of playing the ball around too and Armani Little on his full debut showed glimpses of what he can do with some great runs down the left as the Yellows dominated much of the first half without quite seeing Spurs off; the pace of Sterling always kept United on their toes.
The third goal came soon after the break and killed the game off. Again it was from a set piece, although Spurs cleared the first ball in this time. Whyte retrieved and crossed, Raglan dummied* and McMahon rifled the ball home for 3-0.
It became a training game after that. Jack Roles, Spurs best player on the night, was always inventive and dangerous but the game was all but over by the time we reached the hour mark. Marcus Browne almost marked his birthday with a goal, denied by a good save and a brave block, and there was a home debut for midfielder Aaron Heap to cap a good night all round and underline that talented young players are not the sole property of the Premier League.
Another excellent performance and United march on in three competitions. A trip to Cheltenham Town awaits in the next round. Who knows where this season is heading?
Report by Chris Williams, pictures by Steve Daniels. stats by Andy Swann for OPTA - Happy Birthday Swanny