Never ever leave an Oxford United game early. A Josh Ruffels goal with ten seconds left gave them yet another dramatic win as they came from behind to beat Wycombe 2-1 this afternoon. A goal from Jerome Sinclair had seen them draw level after Adam El-Abd's opener before Ruffels blasted them to a win with a magnificent strike.
United, all in yellow and kicking with their own fans behind them in the first half in a game played in brilliant spring sunshine, started steadily with Ahmed Kashi the ‘quarterback’ in front of the back four and spreading the ball well for wide men Marcus Browne and Luke Garbutt but Oxford didn’t really create too many chances.
Even so, it was a surprise when the visitors took the lead. Wycombe had a couple of tame efforts in the first 15 minutes but were in front after 20 from the first serious effort of the game and their only shot on target in the first half. A free kick from Joe Jacobson travelled to the back post where centre-half Anthony Stewart did well under pressure to get the ball back across the six yard box. El-Abd, with the ball behind him, did well to flick it goalwards and the Wanderers were winning 1-0.
Back came the U’s: Sam Long’s header going over and a Garbutt effort blocked at source before they levelled through Sinclair's deceptively simple finish. It came from good approach play by Marcus Browne, who used the space on the right to full effect with a low cross. Sinclair cleverly positioned himself in space between the two central defenders and was left with a close-range finish from six yards out for his third United goal.
Wycombe had gone above United in the table when leading but had also scored the first goal in their last three games without winning and United now started to fully test their nerve, best shown in the 37th minute when Jacobson missed the target with a penalty, awarded when Josh Ruffels was adjudged to have fouled Alex Samuel as the striker rolled past him in the box.
Having ridden their luck on that occasion, United started to raise the tempo after the break as the game became more open. The once-again excellent Sam Long fired in a number of crosses behind the retreating Wycombe defence, Rob Dickie had two headers cleared almost off the line and an already entertaining game was going up a notch by the minute.
Adebayo Akinfenwa is the focal point for so much of Wycombe's play that he will inevitably have at least one chance each game, this time it was a looping header after an hour that bounced thankfully away off the top of the bar with Simon Eastwood watching and (Wycombe) wondering.
There is strength in depth for United now - switching Browne for Jordan Graham after an hour and Mackie for Henry ten minutes later being a perfect example - and United stretched the game well in the second half, as well as drilling countless crosses into dangerous areas. Dickie needed to make one important clearance from a Wycombe ball across the six-yard box after 80 minutes but otherwise it was a question of whether United would be able to turn one point into three.
There was plenty of possession, no shortage of effort and total commitment, but Gareth Ainsworth's side had defended well and played their part in an entertaining non-derby. However, in the very last minute Ruffels strode on to the ball wide on the left and crashed it over the keeper for the winner- the second home game in a row that United have won this late.
Good goal, good win, good God I need a lie down...
Report by Chris Williams, pictures by Steve Daniels, stats by OPTA