Oxford United made it back-to-back wins on the road as they followed up Saturday's win at Charlton with a hard-earned 1-0 win at Crewe this evening.
United, unchanged from the side that won at the Valley, started on the front foot against a Crewe side that had lost their last seven games, but the home side gave them problems before loanee Ciaron Brown won the game with a second-half strike.
You could see the difference in confidence in the opening 20 minutes. Herbie Kane drilled inches wide in the first minute and the pace and movement left Crewe looking not so solid on a slick, difficult pitch that had recovered well from a postponement against Portsmouth on Saturday.
United racked up double figures for shots blocked or off target in the first 45 minutes but didn't force a save despite that dominance. Cameron Brannagan and Sam Long saw goalbound efforts blocked from the edge of the area, Matty Taylor nodded just over, Sam Baldock lifted a late effort over and yet somehow it was Crewe who drew the only actual save of the half when Jack Stevens had to push away a Dan Agyei drive on 25 minutes.
Crewe matched United with three at the back for the second half and the Railwaymen started to gather a head of steam - Agyei again heading wide when well placed and there was more belief about the whole team. Christopher Long hammered against the bar on 55 with their best chance of the night, but from being in control of the game United now had to try and lift themselves, not helped by an injury to skipper Elliott Moore that forced him out of the action. Or perhaps not...
Replacement Brown has impressed everyone who has seen United train since he arrived on loan from Cardiff, not just as a defender but with his finishing, and when the ball broke his way after a scramble on 65 minutes he buried it beyond keeper Richards for an important first goal for the club.
The goal stopped Crewe in their tracks. Whyte almost ended it but was shunted aside by a challenge that took his feet away at a vital moment after a superb move, then the same player thundered a second chance into the keeper's arms on 73 as United regained their swagger. Brannagan also went close,
Not the best performance of the season, but hard graft and, as so often at Crewe, it's all about the points as United stay on track.
Now for an emotional afternoon as we play Cambridge at home. Join us, if you can, as we pay tribute to one of our own...
Report by Chris Williams, pictures Steve Daniels, stats by OPTA