Oxford United made it 15 games unbeaten with another superb away win today. Ending the Roots Hall hoodoo in style, two goals from Matty Taylor and strikes from James Henry and Dan Agyei - his first for the club - secured another three points for a United team who are rewriting the history books.
Given that Shandon Baptiste had to drop out in the warm-up after feeling his groin tighten up, United might have wanted to ease their way in, with Anthony Forde stepping into the side at the last minute. What they could not have been expecting was a gift of a goal inside 53 seconds. Under no pressure, left-back Richard Taylor passed square for his namesake, who slotted past keeper Nathan Bishop with ease to give his side a priceless head start inside the first minute.
In truth, Southend never recovered and United, fresh from 14 games unbeaten, were full of confidence, movement and enthusiasm. Henry was only denied by a brave save from Bishop as the U’s pressed for an early second goal, and then by two good saves from the keeper inside ten seconds on 26 minutes as United dominated.
The only blip was a yellow card for Gorrin which means he misses the next league game, at home to Shrewsbury, but on 33 minutes it was 2-0 and basically game over as Southend once again handed a goal to the U’s. This time it was centre-half Timothee Dieng with the assist, inexplicably passing gently along the ground to Henry, 25 yards out, and then watching as he touched it forward and then rifled it beyond the despairing Bishop for 2-0.
There were further chances, mostly created by defensive mistakes, but don’t forget that those were caused by constant United pressure and had Sykes, Henry and Fosu been able to take advantage then the game would have been dead and buried by half time.
Instead, the home side rallied and came at United for the first time, only to find Rob Dickie and John Mousinho in typical determined mood and protecting Simon Eastwood, with full backs Cadden and Ruffels then able to join the attck. Indeed, one Cadden cross was only just nicked away by Dieng as Taylor looked certain to make it three just after the hour mark.
Sol Campbell's side did at least raise their game after the break, but they had been the engineers of their own downfall and United had been totally professional in everything they did.
Five minutes from time they were winners when Taylor thumped home his second after Henry had worked the ball to him in suspicious amounts of space inside the box. Thirty seconds later and Southend gave the ball away once more and Agyei, on as a sub seconds earlier, raced clear and prodded home his first goal for the U's in front of over 900 adoring fans, who loved every minute of their day by the sea.
Another win, another clean sheet, another move up the table and a first win at Roots Hall in a generation. What's not to like?
See you at Walsall as we continue our FA Cup adventure.
Report by Chris Williams, pictures by Darrell Fisher