Oxford United's push for promotion continues after two goals from Matty Taylor, a first for Sam Baldock and a Cameron Brannagan blast eased them to a superb 4-0 win at the Valley this afternoon.
Two rapid-fire goals from top scorer Taylor in the first half opened up a comfortable gap which the Addicks never really looked like closing, especially after Sean Clare's red card in the second half. A Baldock strike had already given the U's three goals, Brannagan then secured three points and the U's had fully justified one of the most attack-minded selections of the season.
Short of playing Jack Stevens as a rush goalkeeper, Karl Robinson could hardly have signalled a more attacking intent with Baldock making a debut up front and Mark Sykes and Ryan Williams as wing-backs outside a back three. Although the new line-up had to show their defensive qualities as the home side saw a lot of the ball in the first 10 minutes, their best spell of the match.
The engine room of Brannagan and Kane ran the game from there on in and after 21 minutes they were in front from a typically well-worked move. Luke McNally started it, rumbling forward from the back and drawing men to him. Two or three slick passes and Taylor was suddenly in space in the right channel. A rising finish beyond the gloves of Craig MacGillivray and United were ahead.
United now turned things up. Brannagan hit the bar, Baldock was denied by a follow-up save from McGillivray, and on 28 minutes they were 2-0 up as the excellent Williams won a challenge, ran at the defence and sprayed a superb curling ball around the centre backs for Taylor, in similar territory to the first, to thump home and make it 2-0.
Those two goals from Taylor saw him join James Henry on 54 for the club. One more from either lifts them into the top ten goalscorers ever for the club. Both will do that before the end of the season, but after 55 minutes Baldock joined the long list with his first goal for the club he supported from the terraces at the Manor when he fired accurately home from the edge of the box as United clinched the three points.
Taylor, Baldock and sub Sam Winnall gave United a front three with almost 300 combined goals in their careers, and for all their neat approach play Charlton will have cast envious eyes at that, having failed to force Jack Stevens into a meaningful save all game.
The home side's cause wasn't helped then they were reduced to ten men when former United man Clare was shown the red card after a scuffle which saw Taylor floored. But United were a class apart even before that, and with seven minutes to go Brannagan scored their now annual 'Screamer at the Jimmy Seed Stand End' goal, powering home into the top right corner with McGillivray helpless. Limbs, as they say.
The perfect away performance? Maybe, but more a reward for belief and bravery. On we go. See you at Crewe.
Report by Chris Williams, Pictures by Steve Daniels, Stats by OPTA