Oxford United's amazing year continued today as a Mark Sykes goal gave them a 2-1 win at Stadium MK.
Trailing to a Hiram Boateng goal in the first half, United refused to give up and drew level with a Matty Taylor header after the break, before Sykes sealed a first ever win at MK for the U's.
It was a tremendous effort.
With the home side affected by Covid protocols and missing top scorer Scott Twine, United sensed an opening and were full of running for the whole 90 minutes, but just as the game started to settle, the Dons took the lead from their first attack. Boateng powered away in the left channel and found the net with a shot across the exposed Simon Eastwood to make it 1-0.
That lifted Liam Manning’s men and Eastwood kept it at just the one with a good save when Troy Parrott trilled a similar effort at him from the other side soon after. The excellent Jordan Thorniley had to make two fine challenges plus a clearance off the line as the home side pressed, but Taylor twice had the ball in the net at the other end only to be denied by the flag and United were far from out of the game despite the one-goal disadvantage.
Indeed, they should have been level at the break when keeper Andrew Fisher handed an early Christmas present to Cameron Brannagan with a terrible pass that left the midfielder with a clear run at goal. Sadly, he lifted his shot well over the bar and United trailed at the break, but as it turned out that was just the start of Fisher's afternoon...
Attacking their magnificent supporters in the second half, United began the second period with more tempo and purpose, having two shouts for penalties waved away by ref Tom Reeves and prepared to gamble on whether the rejigged Dons would be able to exploit gaps at the other end on the counter. They couldn't, but it was a close run thing.
The pressure was relentless, and on 65 minutes United got the goal they had been threatening when Kane floated in the most inviting of crosses and Taylor, left unmarked, headed hone his tenth of the season from six yards out. Eight of those ten have come in the last 12 games and he moves above Johnny Love and Andy Thomas in the top 20 scorers list for his hometown club.
The game was there for the taking now, but Sykes took the wrong option when clean through on goal and opted to pass rather than shoot, his ball easily cut out by a relieved defender.
He's forgiven. Moments later, Fisher dallied one time too many and Holland was on to him in a flash to tackle. Taylor swiftly moved it on and Sykes slotted home into the unguarded net to send the away end into a sea of limbs.
Now it was just a case of seeing it through. Eastwood made an astonishing save, coming off his linus to deny Charlie Brown from six yards out, and sub Gavin Whyte might have calmed nerves but was denied a third goal in the 90th minute when Fisher got down well to save.
True, MK had trouble in the build up, but United have had troubles of their own and have still managed to stay unbeaten since the start of October, as well as picking up seven points from three away games this week.They will also now have to overcome Thorniley being suspended after a second yellow in the seventh minute of the five added on. They will.
A good team in great form and amazing scenes at the final whistle as players, staff and fans savoured the moment.
United are at home to Wigan next Saturday. Can't wait. See you there.
Report by Chris Williams, pictures Steve Daniels, Steve Edmunds and Darrell Fisher. Stats by OPTA