A clinical brace of goals from Matty Taylor earned Oxford United a 2-0 win over Bristol Rovers at the Kassam Stadium this afternoon.
A goal in either half from the former Rovers forward was enough to extend United's run to six wins in a row and maintain their upwards trajectory as they once again dominated large periods of the 90 minutes.
Initially unchanged from the team that won 5-1 at Burton in their last league game, with the exception of Liam Kelly in for Anthony Forde, United were forced into an early change when Marcus McGuane limped off with a thigh injury, to be replaced by Cameron Brannagan inside the first 15 minutes. The U’s adjusted quickly and started to apply pressure for the first time with Mide Shodipo starting to get some joy down the flanks and Brannagan twice chancing his arm from the edge of the box without testing keeper Joe Day in the Rovers goal.
The opening goal came with a certain inevitability from Taylor against his former club but owed plenty to U’s skipper Elliott Moore, who showed good strength to nod the ball behind a static Rovers back line after a James Henry free kick had been headed skywards by Josh Ruffels. Taylor, in Taylor Territory, flicked home and the U’s were ahead.
United dominated the rest of the first half without truly testing Day enough and there were gentle reminders at the start of the second half when Abu Ogogo and Max Ehmer planted shots either side of the goal when in good positions. United saw drives from the excellent Kelly and Shodipo blocked around the edge of the area and were still in charge of the game, but a second goal was needed to settle any nerves.
A five-minute delay while assistant referee Nicholas Cooper was replaced after a hamstring injury gave both sides time to regroup just after the hour and Rovers started to open up a little more as they chased the game. That in turn allowed United more space; Shodipo was guilty of a couple of wayward crosses from great positions with players well placed inside the box.
However, on 73 it was game over as Taylor scored his second. Rovers may blame the change of officials; Taylor was close to the last defender when Ruffels clipped a great pass through to him, but once clear Taylor took the ball towards goal, waited for Day to commit then calmly clipped it past him for a clinically taken goal. Eleven for the season for Taylor and six in his last five games…
Rovers have been a bogey team at home for the U's and with nothing to lose did all they could to once again ruin United's day, but a great save from Jack Stevens ensured another clean sheet and United are on the march. Sub Jordan Obita went close with a shot across the face of goal as we moved into ten minutes of time added on and there was one more important save for Stevens to make from Hanlan from close range, but United were full value not just for the win but also another solid defensive performance at the other end.
Another accomplished team performance, two more goals from their talisman, and every department of the team looking good.
Upwards and onwards. See you at Rochdale on Tuesday night.
Report by Chris Williams, pictures Steve Daniels, stats by OPTA