Oxford United started 2021 in the best possible way as they recorded their best win of the season with a 5-1 win at Burton Albion today. Two goals apiece from from Mide Shodipo and Josh Ruffels and a neat finish from Matty Taylor did the job as United's upwards trajectory continued after a strong end to 2020.
The Brewers won’t have impressed new boss Jimmy Floyd-Hasselbaink, watching from the stands, and United were on top from the very start.
The first goal was a simple one at source, a decent long ball over the top from Ruffels but Taylor made the finish look easy, lofting the ball over keeper Kieran O’Hara for his fourth goal in four games and ninth of the season.
United, all in white, looked full of confidence after just one defeat in their last ten games and after 18 minutes were two goals up through yet another peach of a goal from Shodipo. The on-loan QPR winger is proving deadly accurate with anything around the 20 yard range and when the excellent Marcus McGuane found his route to goal blocked by three defenders Shodipo took over, worked a yard of space and curled it beyond the flying keeper to score his sixth goal of a very impressive loan.
It was a tall order for the bottom club to come back after that start and it might have been even worse when Taylor headed a Henry cross back and midfielder Ciaran Gilligan almost sliced the ball into his own net before we reached the half-hour mark. It was a very brief reprieve.
Shodipo will rightly get the praise for the goals but it was the marauding Sam Long who made the third goal, galloping forward and then picking the right pass with a cut back which invited a finish, applied by Shodipo from six yards out and surely game over after half an hour.
Not quite. Taylor rolled another chance wide a minute later as the Brewers drooped visibly, but long-serving John Brayson gave them a moment of hope with a header which drifted just over the bar and former United striker Kane Hemmings then tapped them back in to the game when Quinn’s deflected effort rolled along the goal line after coming back off the post and Hemmings had the simplest chance possible to score the 100th league goal of his career.
With nothing to lose, the home side came at United and sent a couple of half chances wide but the U's held them at arm's length and on 55 minutes were three goals up again with another excellent goal. This time it was Henry the supplier, drifting in from the right and rolling the ball square for Ruffels to rifle the ball home for his second goal of the week.
Burton were beaten now and the best goal of the lot was still to come. Mcguane started it, Long roared forward, McGuane flicked it nonchalantly, Long crossed accurately and Ruffels was there again to hammer the ball home and ensure that 2021 started in the best possible way.
To cap it all came a cameo from Cameron Brannagan to complete his comeback and turn a great day into an unforgettable one.
Let's face it, 2020 was rubbish. I already like the way 2021 is shaping up a whole lot better.
Happy New Year.
Report by Chris Williams, pictures Darrell Fisher, stasts by OPTA