Oxford United bounced beyond the Brewers to move into the play-off places with a 3-1 win at the Pirelli Stadium this afternoon.
United were given a dream start when Matty Taylor netted his fifth of the season inside the first minute and Nathan Holland drove home a second off the legs of a couple of defenders before the break before a Charlie Lakin goal gave the home side hopes of a comeback with ten minutes to go.
However, a calm finish from the penalty spot from James Henry was enough to calm any nerves and give the U's their second away win in a row and second win over Burton this season.
Forty-nine seconds is not a record for the first goal, Phil Gray has that after 11 seconds, but it will certainly do. All it took was one simple pass through the centre of the pitch from the excellent Sam Long and defender Frazer Blake-Tracy missed it. Taylor didn’t and the U’s were a goal up inside a minute as he ran through and finished neatly beyond keeper Ben Garratt before most of the players on the pitch had touched the ball.
Taylor might have scored another after seven minutes but the overworked Garratt blocked that effort and the keeper then got an important touch to a Mark Sykes cross soon after as Taylor waited to tap home his sixth goal of the season. United got into any number of good crossing positions without the ball across reaching its target as they dominated the wide areas all afternoon.
The home side, rocked by the early setback, applied pressure without troubling Simon Eastwood on his return to the side after Jack Stevens went down with glandular fever. Tom Hamer’s long throw was a threat, but the closest they got to an effort on target in the first 80 minutes was a header from former U’s forward Kane Hemmings which was well wide of the mark and a curling effort from Harry Chapman on 35 that flew a few feet over the bar.
The only question was when a second was coming for the visitors. Hamer blocked another Taylor effort after half an hour and Garratt made one excellent save from the rampaging Brannagan soon after before an astonishing stop just before the break to push a drive from the same player onto the post.
With Elliott Moore winning everything in the air and Herbie Kane running the entire game from midfield, the U’s just lacked a second goal; two minutes from the break they had it when Long again provided the key pass and Holland ran across the face of the defence to meet the cross and fire home via the shins of defenders Hamer and Michael Bostwick.
United picked up where they left off after the break and the healthy Holland and Garratt duel saw the keeper add to his showreel with another flying save as the West Ham loanee let fly from the edge of the box after a powerful run.
United fired in shots from all angles but were met by brave Brewers blocks each time and that led to tension when the home side found the net with ten minutes to go.
A Chapman cross caused the problems and a sliced clearance amplified those, allowing sub Lakin to loop the ball home and make it 1-2 and raise hopes among the home fans. For four minutes.
Then United finally ended the contest when Taylor won a race with Garratt for a through ball and was tripped by the keeper. Up stepped Henry for his sixth of the season to edge ahead of Taylor in the race to be top scorer and the U's were now, at last, assured of victory.
A terrific performance, made even more extraordinary with boss Karl Robinson missing with Covid as his side made it two wins in a row without him.
He'll be back for the next league game against Morecambe; come along and get behind this entertaining U's side as they continue to build momentum.
Report by Chris Williams, pictures Steve Daniels, Steve Edmunds, Darrell Fisher and Rex Shutterstock