Oxford United's Golden Week ended with another superb performance and three more points this afternoon. A record 6-0 win at Lincoln and a magnificent 4-0 win over West Ham in the Carabao Cup were followed by another convincing 3-0 win over Gillingham at the Kassam Stadium today, thanks to two goals from James Henry and a calm finish from Matty Taylor.
Let's get one thing straight right at the start. After two results like that, today could have fallen flat, especially when the U’s found themselves in unusual territory when playing towards their own fans in the first half. That didn’t throw them off their stride in any way in yet another totally one-sided first 45 minutes, in which they killed the game off in some style.
It took just nine minutes for them to continue where they left off against the Hammers. Tariqe Fosu was the man to start a fine move deep inside his own half, dribbling through a packed midfield and shifting the ball to Ben Woodburn (a word here for Andy Woolmer who waved play-on despite Fosu being fouled). Woodburn is a class act and basically ghosted past the few players that Fosu had not already gone past before moving the ball to his right for Henry, 25 yards out. Chris Cadden went round him and drew the attention of two defenders but Henry used that as a decoy and calmly clipped the ball up and over stranded goalkeeper Jack Bonham for a superb team goal.
It would probably win goal of the month if United hadn’t already run their own competition with some stunners earlier in the week.
Woodburn almost added another with a low effort on 15 which Bonham drummed wide for a corner, and even then Rob Dickie nearly volleyed that into the top corner when it was swung back into the box.
Never mind. United were still home and hosed by half time.
Bonham made an excellent save from a John Mousinho header after 22 minutes and some of the intricate passing and movement was an absolute pleasure to watch. The U’s were simply irresistible at times and in Taylor have a striker on top predatory form. With 29 minutes gone a magnificent pass, off balance, by the superb Henry, sent Taylor free and in on goal. Foregone conclusion. That made it 2-0 and three goals in three games.
Four minutes later and it was game over when Henry scored United’s 13th goal in 210 minutes of football! Josh Ruffels enjoyed another great game down the left and sent in a cross which Henry homed in on to head over Bonham and make it 3-0. That’s a goal every 16.15 minutes, fact lovers, and the fact that we had time to work that out during the first half tells you plenty about the performance in front of us.
It could have been even better: tinker Taylor, playing off the shoulder, spied a chance on 43 but couldn’t quite guide the ball beyond the overworked Bonham, while Henry did all he could to get a half time hat trick: one low shot saved, another that drifted wide on 44 and a last one that flew away off the left-hand post as United left to an absolute ovation for their display.
Gillingham will have had a rocket at half time and Ollie Lee did squeeze one effort against the post early in the second half, but United were in total control by that stage and had no need to throw men forward and risk jeopardising a fifth clean sheet in a row - that's 461 minutes now since the ball went past Simon Eastwood.
The football was still fantastic and some of the passing was outstanding throughout another entertaining 45 minutes. There were brave blocks from a visiting side, who were far more resolute after the break: one drive from Ruffels was flying into the top corner until a defender got in the way, and several crosses into the box were a yard too far from their intended target.
Never mind, it's not going to take anything at all away from a quite remarkable seven days for Oxford United. What a week. Shall we all have a rest then start again at Accrington?
See you there...
Report by Chris Williams*, pictures by Steve Daniels, stats by OPTA
*unless you are going to question the dodgy mathematics in which case Martin Brodetsky wrote it.