Oxford United got back to winning ways tonight as goals from Matty Taylor, Sam Long and debutant Olamide Shodipo earned them a 3-2 win over MK Dons.
United had to work hard for their first league win at home and, early as it may be, the three points were more than welcome after a couple of frustrating games.
An early goal was the perefect start, and just five minutes into the game United were in front when Rob Atkinson, back in defence after injury, threaded a pass for left-winger Marcus McGuane to run on to. His low cross wasn’t dealt with and Taylor moved the ball out of his feet and passed home a trademark finish for his third goal of the season.
Surely that would free the U’s up after a couple of frustrating performances in which they has failed to take their chances? Sadly nobody had thought to tell the Dons.
The visitors have a distinct style of play based on possession and passing, and on 10 minutes it was a typical flowing move, a ball down the left channel and a low cross from Daniel Harvie which allowed Jerome to sidefoot home one of the simplest goals of his career.
Few teams outdo the U’s in keeping the ball, but the first half hour of the game saw the visitors have 70 percent of the possession. They weren’t massively dangerous from that - Jerome nodded a header wide after 22 minutes - but United were having to work hard to close them down and just needed someone to put their foot on the ball and get them to impose their own style on the game.
One thing United don't do is panic or lose belief. If anything, they created the best chances of the first 45 minutes. Anthony Forde floated a free kick towards the top corner only for Lee Nicholls to tip it over the bar, and James Henry peppered the deserted car park with a couple of long-range efforts before forcing Nicholls into a parry just before the break as United ended the half with their best spell.
They continued to build up a head of steam and started to increase the pressure as they attacked the home flags after the break. Sykes was inches away from a Henry cross, Sean Clare sprinted half the length of the pitch but missed the target and then, finally, Long found a way to give them the lead.
On as a sub, Long is always a threat at set pieces and when Forde floated the most inviting cross into the box it was Long who timed his leap to perfection to give Nicholls no chance.
The better side after the break, McGuane and Sykes had presentable opportunities to further extend the lead before an element of niggle got into what had previously been a respectful game. The Dons pushed, leaving gaps. Sub Dan Agyei couldn't beat a sliding defender with an otherwise empty net to aim at, but no matter. On Came Shodipo, one touch, a blast from distance, bottom corner and surely game over?
Again, MK weren't playing ball and two minutes into added time Ben Gladwin strode forward and fired past Eastwood for another fine goal in an excellent game of football.
An unneccesarily nervous end but a welcome win. A good game. And on to the next one.
Report by Chris Williams, pictures by Steve Daniels stats by OPTA