Oxford United will play Plymouth Argyle away in the second round of the Emirates FA Cup after a convincing win at Forest Green tonight. A first half goal from James Henry was followed by strikes from Jamie Mackie and a superb Marcus Browne effort to ease the U's through with a 3-0 win at the New Lawn.
There was a first appearance at right back for Jamie Hanson, settling in quickly and looking very assured while adding his combative tackling to a back line that has made a habit of keeping clean sheets over the last six weeks.
There was also a change of role for Henry who moved further forward to join the available again duo of Mackie and Gavin Whyte in a front three and almost inevitably looked dangerous throughout. He almost found the opener when a Whyte cross ran just behind him in the opening minutes, as well as having the first shot on target, a tame effort after 16 minutes as the two sides continued to spar in a similar fashion to the first meeting.
The home side had a couple of half chances half way through the first period with a free kick cleared by Luke Garbutt at the near post at the expense of a corner which Paul Digby thumped at goal but Nelson blocked bravely and the second corner was scrambled away in approved FA Cup fashion before United took the lead through Henry
The first two hours of the tie hadn’t produced a goal but after 125 minutes Cameron Brannagan was the man behind the opener, sending in a low effort from 25 yards that was heading for the bottom right corner until Jim Montgomery- there’s an FA Cup name to write about- got a glove to it. Sadly all he succeeded in doing was pushing it back out into the danger zone and Henry was on hand to pass it into the net and give his side the lead.
Two minutes in to the second half and the U’s were 2-0 up and seemingly destined for a Home Park tie in the second round. The goal was down to the hard work of the impressive Ruffels who chased in to the box, got past his man and crossed low with his right foot for Mackie at the near post and his touch was enough to send the ball spinning beyond Montgomery and in to the far corner of the net to make it 2-0
Comfortable now, United shut up shop and other than a Reid header that went well over the bar the League 2 side didn't really trouble Simon Eastwood who came and caught crosses when required behind the rock-solid back four who have developed into such a formidable unit.
The icing on the cake came with 13 minutes left when Browne powered past his man inside his own half and ran at the retreating FGR back line until he reached shooting range and planted the ball inside the right hand post with Montgomery helpless.
3-0, clean sheet, cup progress and this United side grow game by game. Plymouth will not be easy but job done tonight and through we go...
Report by Chris Williams, pictures by Darrell Fisher and Steve Daniels, stats by OPTA