Wednesday, 22 August 2012

MATCH REPORT: Oxford United 2-0 Southend United

We welcome Tom Bruce to give his thoughts on Oxford's impressive victory over Southend United.

Oxford fired themselves to the top of the table with an impressive 2-0 victory over a strong Southend side. The result, and subsequent league position, added gloss to a thoroughly professional performance. While the sending off of Southend's Michael Timlin after half an hour clearly changed the game, the U's were able to capitalise, something that they have historically struggled to do.

The Yellows started brightly, with United's wing wizard, Potter, skipping past the Southend full-back on numerous occasions, but sadly there was no end product. However, Oxford's spell of pressure was starting to wane, and after the first 15 minutes Southend started to get a hold on the match. Their physical presence seemed to cause Oxford a few problems at times, particularly from set pieces.

The turning point came just before the half-hour mark, as Michael Timlin was sent off for the Shrimpers for a seemingly innocuous challenge on JFC to earn his second yellow card, and an early bath. From that point on the U's were in control and could have taken the lead when Smalley almost bundled in after Chapman fired in a free kick from the edge of the box. Smalley had the chance to open his scoring record for the season, but could only narrowly fire wide when the ball fell to his feet in the box. The last chance of the half fell to Rigg whose fine header was expertly saved by visiting keeper Cameron Belford.

At half time Wilder changed things up, sacrificing the defensive-minded Cox for more attacking threat in the form of Tom Craddock. The change quickly paid off when the mesmerising Potter yet again beat his full-back, before whipping in a low cross, which was met perfectly by Craddock to net his first of the season.

United dominated the play with a staggering 68% of possession, with Forster-Caskey showing a maturity when on the ball and Alfie finding lots of space and making dazzling runs. The game opened up as Southend pushed more and more men forward, the resulting pockets of space being thoroughly exploited by the U's impressive forwards. Time and time again Potter weaved his way through the Southend defence, leaving vanquished defenders in his wake.

Oxford created numerous chances, but failed to find the net. Potter cut in from the left, beat a man and hit the post when one on one with the keeper, and Rigg contrived to miss from 6 yards with the ball eventually going off for a throw!

Oxford finally got the scoreline to match their superiority as a delicate touch from Craddock left Cresswell on the floor before he smashed the ball past a helpless Belford.

Oxford’s promotion credentials have been affirmed after passing this early test and finally laying to rest the Southend hoodoo with a thoroughly professional and sensible performance.

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