Oxford United went through to the knockout stages of the Checkatrade Trophy with a totally dominant display at Wycombe this evening. The U's never looked back after a first-minute goal from Cameron Brannagan, and further strikes from Marcus Browne and Sam Smith saw them through with a 3-0 win.
United could not have dreamed of a better start. Having taken kick-off they went quickly down the right and Smith, back in the team up front, sent Gavin Whyte galloping in to space. That usually spells danger and his deep cross picked out Brannagan who sent his header back across keeper Yves Ma-Kalambay to make it 1-0 with the fastest United goal since Jamie Lambert’s strike against Colchester in 1999 (and we believe the quickest away goal the U’s have ever scored).
United were quick and sharp up front and dominated from that moment. They should definitely have doubled their advantage when they had two similar attacks that saw them outnumber the home defence. First, after 16 minutes Smith freed Browne at full speed but his shot smashed into the side netting rather than going across the keeper where Whyte was alongside and unmarked. Then on 23 the excellent Smith fed Whyte who powered through a weak challenge but again tried to beat the keeper when Smith was perfectly placed to his left.
It did not matter.
At the other end Charlie Raglan attacked every ball into the area as though it were a personal affront and Jon Mitchell made a good save when Scott Kashket managed Wycombe’s only effort on target in the first half, after 28 minutes, but on 32 United finally found the second goal that they had threatened all night. Brannagan showed quick feet and then sent Browne free on the right once more. Left back Charlie Fox came to meet his tormentor but was twisted inside out, totally outfoxed, before Browne blasted the ball home off the underside of the bar for an excellently taken goal: terrific player and two in three games now.
Eight minutes into the second half and it was 3-0 and game over* when Smith got the goal he deserved. It came from a clever free kick that was cut back for Jamie Hanson whose low shot got caught under the feet of a Wycombe defender but somehow ran through for Smith, six yards out, who forced the ball through the keeper for the third goal.
The U's surrendered a 3-0 lead at Scunthorpe in their previous game but were not in the mood for such silliness again and worked as a unit to keep closing the home side down. Whyte, Browne and workaholic Brannagan all had shots well saved before a little moment of history saw Harvey Bradbury replace the impressive Smith, the former Portsmouth striker following in the footsteps of dad Lee to become the first father and son to play for the U's.
Aaron Heap was then also handed a debut, just to underline the fantastic progress that United's Academy continue to make and cap a very strong performance in which players stepped up and pressed their claims for a starting place in the league.
A win and the third game in a row that United have scored three goals. What's not to like?
Report by Chris Williams, pictures Steve Daniels and Darrell Fisher, stats by OPTA
*yes, we know