Oxford United did all the hard work but still ended up losing to Burton Albion at the Kassam Stadium tonight. Trailing to a Jake Buxton header at the break, United bounced back to lead 2-1 thanks to goals from Cameron Brannagan and Anthony Forde, but a 23-minute hat-trick from Scott Fraser turned the game on its head for a second time to give Nigel Clough's side a 4-2 win.
The first 15 minutes were level pegging but you could see the belief all the way through the United side as they zipped the ball around on a superb playing surface.
There was a let off after 17 minutes when Liam Boyce dragged a very presentable chance wide of the mark from 12 yards, but United would have scored the Goal of the Century a minute later had Ben Woodburn been able to make proper contact with a 35-yard pass from Henry that just invited a volley from the edge of the box.
Burton started to drop deeper as the home side found their rhythm and with Woodburn finding good positions just behind the returning Matty Taylor, there was plenty of invention from the U’s. But The Brewers were the only side creating chances and on 29 minutes it took a very good save from Simon Eastwood to parry a goalbound header from John Brayford round the post.
The relief was short lived though. From the resulting corner Buxton found space at the near post to back head the ball with a neat glance that left Eastwood helpless and gave the away side a 1-0 lead.
United almost responded immediately when Woodburn slipped Taylor in on goal, but his clip over the keeper was beaten away for a corner and when that was delivered and flicked on Taylor could only lift it up and over the bar from close range.
The Yellows were pressing though. John Mousinho couldn’t repeat his goal against his former club when steering a 42nd-minute corner wide, Taylor was denied by the faintest flick off a defender’s head at the near post as the first half built to an exciting finish, and the excellent Cadden’s cross was clawed away from under the bar by the backpedalling O’Hara.
They had built up a head of steam and it took just two minutes of the second half for them to get back on level terms. It was a peach of a goal and started with Taylor springing the offside trap and holding the ball to allow Forde to join him. Their slick movement baffled the Brewers and Forde’s slipped ball across the box was perfect for Brannagan to smash home across the keeper for his third of the season: 100 percent of his team’s goals at home at that stage. Cameron Brannagain.
It didn’t take long for that record to change as United stormed into the lead through Forde’s first goal for the club. It owed a lot to Rob Dickie’s willingness to bring the ball out of defence and his precise ball sent the former Rotherham winger clear on goal; credit to him because he could see along the line and timed his move well. O’Hara came to meet him but Forde’s low shot was deadly accurate, curling across the keeper to make it 2-1.
Surely United would go on to win the game? Burton had other ideas.
On the hour, the ball bobbled around on the left flank but broke the way of the visitors who squeezed the ball into the box. United half cleared but Fraser, 16 yards out, let fly with an absolutely unstoppable rising effort that was past Eastwood before he could move and we were all square once again at 2-2.
Incredibly, all of United's hard work to get back into the game was suddenly made to look as though it would count for nothing on 69 minutes when Fraser repeated his previous strike. Letting fly from similar distance the ball flicked off the outstretch leg of the unwitting Dickie and curled perfectly past Eastwood to make it 2-3 and put the fizz back into the Brewers.
On came Mackie and Fosu to try and force the pace for the final 20 minutes, then Rob Hall for the last ten, but it was Liam Boyce who went closest to another goal when his 78th-minute header came back off the post for the visitors before Fraser ensured that United were doomed.
Similar range, same left foot and same outcome as his best goal of the night condemned the U's to their first home defeat of the season and just their second loss at home in 2019.
Credit to the visitors: well drilled and picking up their second away win in two league trips. United had played well in patches but not shown the consistency of their previous games. Work in progress.
On to Bristol Rovers on Saturday.
Report by Chris Williams, pictures by Steve Daniels, stats by OPTA