Two quick goals early in the second half sent Oxford United through to the third round of the Emirates FA Cup at Plymouth this afternoon.
After a cagey first 45 minutes a proper FA Cup tie broke out and goals from James Henry and Cameron Brannagan were enough to send United through, despite Antoni Sarcevic pulling a goal back for the home side to set up a superb last half hour of cup football.
Plymouth started strongly without testing Simon Eastwood too many times in the first half; Curtis Nelson helped him out with two good blocks early on against his former team and Joel Grant thrashed a shot into the side netting after 17 minutes after a terrific pass from the ever-dangerous Graham Carey.
A sly worldy from Simon Eastwood kept a backheel out, even if the ref did award a goalkick; Freddie Ladapo put anther chance into the side netting but otherwise United were dominant at the back, with Nelson in excellent form and Mousinho mopping up danger just in front.
Argyle had done their homework and had former United man Joe Riley keeping a close eye on Marcus Browne on one wing and another ex-U’s full back, Ashley Smith-Brown, sticking close to Gavin Whyte down the other flank but on 31 Whyte sprinted away, rolled the ball to Browne and he was unlucky to see his low effort flash just wide of the far post with United’s best chance of the half.
Having stayed in the cup tie in the first half, United then looked to have taken control in the first few minutes of the second half and done enough to get their name into the hat for Monday’s draw.
The first goal was down to Mackie running in to the area and flicking to his right where Henry was at a tight angle but fired it through Macey for 1-0. United then had to depend on Rob Dickie for a magnificent clearance to keep a Fox header out as it flew towards the top corner, a piece of defending that changed the course of the game because two minutes later United were 2-0 up instead of 1-1.
Browne was, of course, involved, but found his way blocked and the ball was pushed inside instead where Henry just could not find space for a shot this time. However, when the ball came back for Brannagan on the edge of the box he had room to work and fired it across the keeper and into the top corner for a priceless 2-0 lead.
Surely that would be enough to ease United through? But this is the FA Cup and things are never that easy. Plymouth threw men forward and the game opened up. On 67 it was game on again when Sarcevic flicked home a Carey cross to make it 1-2 and get the crowd right behind the home side.
Now United had to defend for their lives and Dickie made a heroic block for a second time when Fox let fly but could not get the ball past the United centre-half's flying body. Mousinho might have eased the tension but fired against the back of the stationary Mackie with plenty of goal to aim at either side of his teammate. Henry was also off target after 87 minutes, but United were grateful that Carey was careless with an 85th-minute effort that flew well wide.
Credit to the U's who registered back-to-back wins for just the third time all season: each time they have been cup wins after league ones. One defeat in 12 games and through in the FA Cup: excellent form as we come to the busiest time of the year...
Report by Chris Williams, pictures by Darrell Fisher, stats by OPTA
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