Saturday, 25 August 2012

MATCH REPORT: Oxford United 2-1 Plymouth Argyle

We welcome Olly Howells to TBFUTH to report on another win for the mighty yellows.

Oxford managed to hold on to the top spot in League Two and keep their 100% record intact thanks to a three-minute salvo from Deane Smalley midway through the first half. This was despite a surprisingly lacklustre second half performance from the U’s, probably influenced by the loss of both Deane Smalley and Jake Forster-Caskey due to injury at half time.

The yellows came into this game on the back of a minimal fuss victory over Southend United in midweek, and were looking to push on from six points of six so far. The first ten minutes were largely uneventful, with a Tommy Craddock shot over the bar the only action of note in this period. Shortly after the ten minute mark, Paris Cowan-Hall was played in to slot the ball into an empty net, to the delight of the 770 travelling Plymouth fans, only for the offside flag to save Oxford, and keep the scores level. On 20 minutes some hard work from Sean Rigg allowed him to beat his man when the ball appeared to be lost, before whipping in a cross, allowing Smalley to tuck the ball past Jake Cole from three yards.

This was only Smalley’s second league goal in 25 league appearances for Oxford, and it was only three minutes before he made that three in 25, slotting the ball into the bottom right hand corner of the net from a tight angle between the edge of the six yard box and the side of the penalty area after a quick break from Alfie Potter, who picked up another assist, his second in two games.

Oxford were rampant, and Damian Batt nearly added a third on the stroke of the 30 minute mark, but his effort went just wide. As the rain began to pour Smalley nearly completed his hat-trick, only for Jake Cole to save from point blank range, leaving Smalley visibly disappointed to have missed one of the best opportunities for a hat-trick he’ll ever have.

The second half was a completely different story to the first, as United began to sit back and defend their lead, and Plymouth began to push on, trying for a route back into the game, although Craddock had a golden opportunity to  finish the Pilgrims off, shooting over from 15 yards when one on one with Cole. A fizzing shot from Sean Rigg tested the handling of the Argyle ‘keeper minutes later, but the ex-Oxford man was equal to it.

On 75 minutes Argyle won a free-kick 25 yards from Ryan Clarke’s goal after a foul by Damian Batt on the impressive Onismor Bhasera, which Plymouth substitute Robbie Williams stepped up and curled impressively into the bottom right-hand corner of the goal, leaving a tense last 15 minutes for the 6,136 U’s fans in attendance.

In the closing stages United regained control of the match, and only a smart save from Cole kept Pittman off the score sheet after Constable whipped in an inch-perfect cross. United then spent the majority of the remainder of the game in the corners of the Plymouth half, and managed to hold firm against a late surge of pressure from the greens to pick up their third win on the bounce and remain on top of League Two ahead of the League Cup fixture at Leeds United on Tuesday, where Chris Wilder will be hoping his side can spring a shock to the Championship promotion contenders. 

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