Oxford United's impressive home form continued with an excellent 5-1 win over Accrington Stanley at the Kassam Stadium this evening.
Two goals midway through the first half from Nathan Holland on his return to the side, a clever finish from Matty Taylor, a sliding effort from the excellent Mark Sykes and an injury time own goal from Accrington's Michael Nottingham saw United home despite an Ethan Hamilton goal for the visitors in an excellent game of football in very difficult conditions.
After several hours of rain before kick off, the ball zipped nicely across the lush playing surface and with a midfield trio of Herbie Kane just behind James Henry and Cameron Brannagan, United had three players very comfortable on the ball and more than capable of slipping the ball through the channels for the recalled Sykes and Holland, either side of Taylor.
That proved the perfect combination although Stanley, a point ahead of the U’s at kick-off, saw Matt Butcher fire two early efforts over the bar before United seized the game by the scruff of the neck thanks to Holland's two goals midway through the first half.
The first was a good goal. Picking up the ball 40 yards from goal, the on-loan West Ham man dummied his way past one man, switched foot, picked up a rebound, kept going and neatly rolled the ball past the stranded James Trafford for an excellent first league goal of the season.
His second was even better. Invited to run at the defence from a similar position, this time he chose to ping the ball in to the feet of Taylor who moved it out wide for the ever-willing Steve Seddon on the left flank. His low cross picked out Holland’s well-timed run into the box and the side-foot finish beat Trafford all ends up to make it 2-0 after quarter of the game.
Accrington were uncharacteristically sloppy, giving the ball away far too often and inviting pressure, with Trafford having to save twice from the influential Henry as the U’s pressed them deeper and deeper.
Credit to their 81 supporters who had braved the rain and found sufficient fuel to make the long journey. Those fans thought they had scored the goal they needed to get back into the game immediately after the break, when Hamilton headed against the post and the ball bounced goalwards before being cleared by a suspiciously over-the-line-looking James Henry.
Had that been adjudged differently then who knows? Instead United carried on and within a minute were 3-0 up when Taylor clipped home his second goal in successive games, running free in the left channel and expertly lofting the ball over the advancing Trafford to send the ball gently into the unguarded net.
United were coasting, but on the hour Accrington had a lifeline and Hamilton made sure there was no doubt about the goal this time, showing good composure to beat Stevens from inside a crowded penalty area and make it 3-1 with a clever left-footed finish.
Time to stay sensible and kill the game off for the U's, who responded perfectly to the setback and made it 4-1 after 70 minutes to end the contest. Seamus Conneely dallied in midfield and was robbed by Henry who stormed forward and crossed for the sliding Sykes to slam home his second goal of the season. Start the car, as one Accrington fan might say...
There was still time for Trafford to push a Branagan blast all the way to Nottingham, or at least his shins, for a comedy fifth, but credit to John Coleman's side who refused to throw in the towel even as the heavens opened. It made for a fine game and when both sides want to play football it makes it so much easier on the eye.
A convincing win and United now have four wins and two draws from their six home games to move ever closer to the play-off places. Time to start picking up points away from home now..
See you in Sheffield. Saturday.
Fifty/50 winning number:1660 wins £387.50
Report by Chris Williams, pictures Steve Daniels and Steve Edmunds, stats by OPTA