Jamie Mackie scored a dramatic winner for the U's to give them a 1-0 win over Bradford City this afternoon. United managed 26 shots to City's four, but in the end had to wait until the 94th minute for Mackie to hammer home and lift them out of the relegation places amid amazing scenes, with nobody knowing whether the goal was going to be cancelled out for a foul at the other end.
To be fair, the wind made it a miracle that there was any decent football played at all; even the advertisement pads around the pitch were abandoned before kick-off to avoid them forming an impromptu velcro-fixed wall at set pieces.
United, playing against that wind in the first half in a slightly adjusted 4-2-3-1 shape, saw early efforts from Henry and Sinclair blocked at source just outside the area and a rasping drive from Cameron Brannagan parried by keeper Richard O’Donnell inside the fourth minute as they made the early running.
With Ahmed Kashi sitting deep and helping keep things moving and wide men Whyte and Graham stretching the game, it was pretty much one-way traffic other than a Butterfield effort on 25 minutes which flew harmlessly into the Ultra-free realms of the back of the East Stand. United meanwhile saw a Brannagan blast blocked by Chicksen’s drum stick on the line, a Kashi effort smothered by O’Donnell on 29 and a Whyte chip strike a white Vauxhall Astra in the car park on 32 as they racked up 13 shots in the first half to Bradford’s one.
With that wind now behind them and increasing to the level that the Bradford keeper had to kick a rolling ball at goal kicks, United roared forward after the break but still struggled to get through a very disciplined Bradford back line. The wingers had their best chances. First Whyte had the opportunity on 54 but leant back and sent a very presentable chance well over the bar when he had the goal at his mercy, then Graham did the same from the other side of the goal, sending his effort into the E4 vomitory on the stand.
Henry's 64th-minute free-kick forced O'Donnell into a good save and the introduction of Jamie Mackie for the final 20 minutes added a more physical presence up top. Fellow sub Marcus Browne reached a swinging cross from Sam Long on 73 but couldn't steer his effort on target and Sinclair was pleased that an offside flag spared his blushes after he missed the ball with an empty net three yards in front of him!
An 87th-minute Sinclair effort missed the target once more and Brannagan was inches away with a terrific effort a minute later and United had done everything but score until the most amazing finish I have ever seen at the Kassam Stadium.
On 94 minutes Lewis O'Brien missed a sitter, under pressure, and United roared up the other end and scored when Mackie joyfully hammered home. The linesman called it back, saying that the goalkick had been taken with players in the area and was therefore not a legal restart. Ref Andy Davies consulted his other assistant and between them the officials decided that none of the players in the area was seeking an advantage. United argued their case and at one point were calling for TV replays - which you can't do - and as all hell broke loose and both teams surrounded him the ref eventually awarded the goal!
Unbelievable scenes which will be debated for a long, long time. But the bottom line is that the better team won the game.
A massive three points and United are on the up...
Report by Chris Williams, pictures by Darrell Fisher, stats by OPTA