Oxford United are within touching distance of another Wembley final after a 3-1 win over AFC Wimbledon moved them through to the semi-finals of the Papa John's Trophy tonight.
Two goals from Sam Winnall, his first two goals for the club, and a Mide Shodipo goal in the second half secured United's place in Friday night's draw while extending their winning run to an incredible nine in a row despite Ethan Chislett's consolation for the visitors.
In the end it was confortable, although Wimbledon had the first effort from Ryan Longman go well wide of Simon Eastwood’s goal before United started to go up through the gears and on 12 minutes they went in front from a beautifully crafted opener.
Alex Gorrin, hugely influential in midfield, started it with a ball out to Josh Ruffels on the wing - the space around him created by Shodipo taking a defender away. Ruffels then had time to look up and deliver a perfect cross and Winnall joyfully leapt in front of keeper Sam Walker to head home his first goal for the club.
The visitors should have equalised on 19 minutes when Shane McLoughlin headed wide under no pressure at all, but United were on top and on 28 were two goals up from another great team goal.
Again Gorrin started it, with Liam Kelly playing a nice touch, Rob Hall carrying the ball and then timing his pass to perfection and Shodipo skipping past his man. This time the cross was low and Winnall did what all good goalscorers do: nipping in front of his man to steer the ball past the helpless Walker and make it 2-0.
A third would surely end the contest. Hall forced Walker into a save at full stretch with a trademark freekick, Ruffels saw a drive blocked and Mark Sykes was lurking at the back post until a desperate defender nicked the ball off his toe.
Wimbledon weren’t done just yet though and it took a wonderful save from Simon Eastwood to deny Ethan Chislett a goal that might have changed the course of the game, with another good save before the break just about ensuring that United still had their comfort zone.
On 52 the lead was three goals and the U's were in cruise control. Forget the goals and open style they are playing, there needs to be tackles and tenacity and this time it was the non-stop Sykes who won the ball in midfield and freed Shodipo, who has become a prolific scorer and rattled in his ninth of the season with his usual calm finish.
Winnall fired a good chance wide when a hat-trick beckoned after more trickery from the elusive Hall; Ruffells and sub Cameron Brannagan went close but United blotted their copybook on 77 when a little bit of casual defending allowed Chislett to chisel out the goal that the visitors had deserved for a spirited performance.
Another hugely impressive performance. New signing Joe Grayson enjoyed a fine debut as a second half sub, fellow new boys Brandon Barker and Elliot Lee will add further quality, and nine wins in a row is an amazing sequence.
WWWWWWWWW and through to the Papa John's Trophy semi-final? Top that...
Report by Chris Williams, pictures by Steve Daniels, stats by OPTA