Oxford United continued their revival as two goals from top scorer Matty Taylor and fine strikes from Mide Shodipo and Dan Agyei earned them a 4-0 win over Northampton Town at the Kassam Stadium this evening, their best win of the season.
The U's were full value for their win in front of 2,000 season ticket holders who made a massive difference, cheering their team on and thoroughly enjoying their return to the Kassam Stadium.
With Rob Atkinson failing a late fitness test, John Mousinho continued in defence while Shodipo came in for Jordan Obita on the left wing and was massively influential. Elliott Moore’s ability to hit diagonals to the left flank for Shodipo gave them a useful outlet; there used to be another Elliott who did that for the U’s from that position and he did OK.
The centre-half’s height was key in defence too, where the giant Harry Smith was the focal point of much of the Cobblers’ approach play and set pieces a key part of their armoury in a scrappy first half - still the best half most of the 2,000 fans had seen all season!
It took 23 minutes for the returning fans to give the visiting side the slow handclap as they tried to take time out of the game, but the longest delay and biggest concern came after half an hour, when Mousinho twisted to send a routine ball out to the left wing and crumpled in a heap as his knee buckled under him. He soldiered on until half time but replacement Sean Clare was to have an immediate effect.
The best chance of the first half came for Josh Ruffels on 35 when he bent a right-footed effort against the post from 20 yards out, but neither goalkeeper had been tested before the break and what we needed was an early goal to open the game up.
Four minutes after the restart it was Clare who paved the way, driving at the retreating Cobblers defence and clipping the ball over keeper Steve Arnold. Taylor, poaching as ever, was a yard out when he touched the ball home to give the fans exactly what they wanted: a goal in front of the East Stand to mark their return.
Northampton offered a hopeful Caleb Chukwuemeka effort which flew high over the fence but otherwise did little to suggest they could stop the U's claiming their third clean sheet in four games. Do that and you are half way there and soon after that opportunity it was game over as Shodipo ended the competition with an excellent second goal.
Started by a driving run from the excellent Marcus McGuane and carried on by the non-stop running of Alex Gorrin, Shodipo still had plenty to do when he got the ball on the edge of the box, but there is a certain spot just in front of the 18-yard line which he seems to love at the Kassam Stadium. A look up and a curling effort was past Arnold for the QPR winger's fourth goal for the U's.
Northampton had a couple of half chances but Jack Stevens remained largely untroubled as United made it one defeat in seven, climbing above the visitors and continuing their climb up the table. There might have been a third when the bandaged head of Long nodded a Henry free kick over but no matter: on 88 minutes sub Agyei ran at the defence once again, clipped a superb ball across and Taylor did the rest with a flying header for his second of the night.
The best of the goals was still to come. Last minute and Agyei again advanced towards a tired looking away defence. They backed off towards the Oxon/Northants border and Agyei accepted the invite by firing a magnicient effort into the top left corner for a peach of a goal.
4-0, a clean sheet and huge smiles behind the masks.
Whisper it, but United are undefeated so far since fans were able to join them.
Report by Chris Williams, pictures by Steve Daniels, stats by OPTA