Oxford win away

Photo courtesy of Steve Daniels
Photo courtesy of Steve Daniels
Article by Jack Shoemark

For just the third time in TWENTY ONE away league games, United took all three points as they battled to a 1-0 win at York City. A poacher’s goal from James Roberts and some resolute, battling defending was enough to give United a second victory on the road this season and follow-up last week’s cup victory at Grimsby in exactly the right way.

With top scorer Danny Hylton back from suspension, it was Callum O’Dowda who made way for the 12-goal former Rotherham man with Roberts keeping his starting spot after scoring twice on his full debut at Grimsby. York, who came into the game without a home win all season, started with former U’s player Lewis Montrose in the middle of the park, an clear indication into the way the game was going to be played. It was the home-side who started the brightest, with those in yellow shirts still recovering from another long journey north. Wes Fletcher was thwarted by a sliding combination of Jake Wright and Ryan Clarke with Wright and Johnny Mullins having to nip in to stop York attacks on a number of occasions.

The biggest moment of alarm came from Michael Coulson, the former Grimsby winger who had scored the only goal in the game at the Kassam in April, cut inside and hit a dipping, curling shot beyond the reach of Clarke but saw it strike the angle of post and crossbar and bounce away to safety. This awoke United from their slumber and they were soon passing the ball about neatly with the usual erratic moments thrown in for good measure. Danny Hylton saw a shot blocked at the other end before York’s Jake Hyde headed a corner straight at Clarke with the goal gaping.

Coulson’s shot and Hyde’s header were let offs and proved to be costly for the Minstermen as two miracles were about to happen. On 33 minutes, referee Scott Duncan gave the U’s a free-kick, miracle number one. Brian Howard stepped up and curled the ball up and over the wall towards the top corner before former United loanee Alex Cisak produced two strong hands to tip the ball over the bar and out for a corner. The resulting ball was swung in, flicked on at the near post and fell to man of the moment Roberts to stab the ball home to complete miracle number two – United had scored from a corner.

There was just time for Montrose to embarrass himself before half time. The big midfield stopper miscontrolled the ball saw a dangling yellow leg, went over it with a high-pitched scream and won a free kick for his side. The United fans behind the goal let him know what they thought and once all the fuss had died down, Coulson drilled the free kick straight at Jake Wright.

York came out strongly, as expected, at the start of the second half and Clarke had to beat away a shot from the edge of the area from Montrose. But with the likes of Alfie Potter, Roberts and Tareiq Holmes-Dennis in the side, the U’s have some pace on the counter attack. Potter led one of a number of charges away and saw his shot pushed behind for a corner by Cisak. Andy Whing, Wright and Mullins were mopping up everything at the back with Whing becoming a battleship in the middle of the park. Roberts was again released on goal with a ball in behind the York defence but his clever low curling shot was saved well by Cisak. There was again a spell of York pressure which needed some brave defending from United with the whole team showing energy and willingness to hassle their opponents. Yet another ball in behind the York defence, something which United used effectively all day, let Roberts in, the youth team graduate easily moved away from Stephane Zubar and Keith Lowe before sitting Cisak on the floor and rolling the ball past him. On his full league debut, a second goal would have capped the day for Roberts, but the ball hit the inside of the post and came back out across goal where his follow up was blocked by Marvin McCoy.

As long suffering Oxford fan, yours truly feared the worst after a number of missed chances. But the entire team stood strong and withheld the pressure applied by the home side to earn a first clean sheet in FOURTEEN away games and make the trip back to Oxfordshire a very happy one.

Special mention to Tareiq Holmes-Dennis who was fantastic for the entire ninety minutes with a great display of defensive solidness and the ability to both pick a pass and take on a player. His defensive display was well accompanied by skipper Wright, Mullins and fellow loanee Joe Riley whilst Whing, Danny Rose and Howard worked tirelessly in front of them. Potter looked dangerous on the break and again worked hard in his defensive role. Danny Hylton ran himself into the ground for the cause once again and Roberts looked like a seasoned professional in his role up top. Sub Callum O’Dowda was also solid in his 15 minute cameo.

A good battling performance from a U’s side who have been criticised for a lack of fight this season. Michael Appleton will be delighted with three points and a clean sheet to end a run of two defeats. A home game against AFC Wimbledon is up next and a chance to continue two promising performances on the road in the north.

Crowd: 3363 (468 Yellows)