Oxford United's remarkable season will continue with a second successive play-off campaign after a convincing 4-0 win over Burton Albion today clinched the 6th and final place in the Sky Bet League 1 play-off places.
Knowing they needed to better Portsmouth and Charlton’s results elsewhere, United kept their end of the deal superbly and goals from Olamide Shodipo, Matty Taylor Elliot Lee and Sam Winnall saw United defy the odds to keep their season alive a little longer.
What they needed was an early goal to settle them down, knowing the effect it would have when news travelled, and after nine minutes Shodipo powered home a header from five yards out to give the U’s the advantage. It was a good move that paved the way and James Henry who put the goal on a plate with a perfect cross from the right.
Had Matty Taylor been able to convert a Shodipo cross five minutes later, Rob Atkinson made better contact with a shot from the edge of the area or Henry been a foot lower from similar range, then a two-goal lead within 15 minutes would surely have ended the contest. Instead Burton hung in there, despite being under pressure from United’s quick movement when in possession and press when out of it.
Was anyone going to help? Step forward Accrington Stanley. Danny Rowe volleyed a good effort wide for Burton at exactly the moment that Stanley took the lead at Portsmouth, and when Taylor made it 2-0 moments later the impossible dream was on. In all honesty, it was Burton who gave him the assist, a looping back header nowhere near keeper Dillon Barnes and allowing Taylor to loop a clever header over the stranded keeper for his 18th goal of the season.
But United were full value for that two-goal lead and when needed Jack Stevens had made one good save to keep the precious lead intact. The game was soon put to bed when Lee made it 3-0 on 56 with a free kick under the wall which went in via the left-hand post, and then it was just a case of every Oxford fan supporting Accrington: the team they twice previously swapped places with in the Football League.
Burton pushed forward but United held them largely at arm's length and on 90 minutes Winnall cleverly lofted the ball over Barnes to make it 4-0 with a typically clinical finish.
The final whistle saw joyous scenes as staff and players celebrated a job well done on the day and a magnificent achievement over all, especially for a side that was bottom of the league in the opening exchanges.
All that was missing was the fans, and you'll get your chance as the U's move on to face Blackpool, home and away, with the first game at the Kassam Stadium on Tuesday 18th: keep an eye right here for details of how to be part of a ballot for home leg tickets.
Meanwhile, enjoy the moment...
Report by Chris Williams, pictures Steve Daniels, stats by OPTA