Exeter City 1-4 Oxford UnitedLine-Ups
Exeter City: Olejnik, Harley, Holmes (Watkins 74’), Davies, Nicholls, Moore-Taylor (capt), Wheeler, Tillson, Grant (Taylor 46’), Stockley (Morrison 46’), Brown.
Subs: Butterfield, Woodman, Reid, Hamon.
Goals: Nicholls 77’
Oxford United: Buchel, Skarz (Evans 64’), Mullins (capt), Sercombe, MacDonald (Ismail 70’), O'Dowda, Kenny, Lundstram, Maguire, Bowery (Waring 76’), Dunkley.
Subs: Slocombe, Hylton, Ruffels, Ashby.
Goals: Dunkley 8’, Bowery 41’, 59’, MacDonald 62’
Referee: Simon Hooper
A RAMPANT Oxford United side scored two goals in each half to consign City to defeat in Paul Tisdale’s five-hundredth game in charge of the Grecians.
After a lively start to the encounter Oxford took the lead through a Chey Dunkley header in the eighth minute, before Jordan Bowery doubled the visitors' lead four minutes before first-half stoppage-time. A further two goals followed for the U’s in the second half to put the game out of the Grecians’ reach, but there was still time for City wide-man Alex Nicholls to pull one back with thirteen minutes remaining.
There was just one change to the City side that started against Newport County AFC three days ago, with Joel Grant resuming first-team duties after a watching brief at the weekend. Former St James Park favourite Liam Sercombe was handed a starting berth at the heart of the visitors’ midfield, but regular central midfield partner and U’s’ nineteen-goal top-scorer Kemar Roofe was sidelined due to a groin injury. Striker George Waring, who signed for Oxford on loan from Stoke City only hours prior to kick-off, was named amongst the seven substitutes.
It was the Grecians who crafted the first chance of the rearranged fixture within a minute of kick-off. After Jayden Stockley was brought down on the right-hand side of the Oxford area, Ryan Harley stepped up to take the resultant free-kick to force Benjamin Buchel into a sprawling save to his left.
City’s spritely start to the game was halted, though, as the away side began to find a way into the game. First Bobby Olejnik tipped a Chris Maguire shot around the post and out for a corner, and with the resultant set-piece the U’s took the lead. Alex MacDonald was granted some space on on the right-hand side after the corner was booted clear, and the winger whipped an inch-perfect cross into the path of Chey Dunkley who rose above his marker to head home in the seventh minute. Dunkley’s goal had settled Oxford, and they threatened again ten minutes later as Maguire worked the space for a shot from inside the City area but dragged his effort wide.
Next it was City’s turn to pose some problems with two chances in quick succession. First Joel Grant’s effort from long-range spun wide of the right-hand post, before Buchel was equal to Wheeler’s close-range effort after the City winger had done well to latch on to Ryan Harley’s lofted ball.
It was Olejnik to the rescue for City just before the half-hour mark, as the Austrian rushed off his line to deny Callum O’Dowda a chance to go clear through on goal with the City defence left stranded. The U’s came close again in the thirty-sixth minute, with Troy Brown making a vital intervention to prevent MacDonald from connecting with Maguire’s cross from the edge of the area.
The visitors doubled their lead four minutes before the break, and in truth it had been coming. John Lundstram’s ball pierced the City defence to send Jordan Bowery through one-on-one with Olejnik, and the ex-Rotherham striker did the rest, keeping his cool to slot the ball beyond the keeper.
The visitors were inches away from adding another in first-half stoppage time through a Maguire free-kick, but the twenty-seven-year-old’s effort from the left-hand side of the area flew narrowly wide, and City went in for the interval with a two-goal deficit to overturn in the second-half.
HALF-TIME: EXETER CITY 0–2 OXFORD UNITED
City boss Paul Tisdale decided to roll the dice at half-time, introducing Clinton Morrison and Jake Taylor immediately after the break in place of Grant and Stockley. In contrast to the frantic tempo at the end of the first half, the second half began with somewhat of a lull in play as both sides battled it out in the middle of the park. Wheeler’s bursting run in the fifty-sixth minute worked a good opening for the Grecians, but the winger couldn’t pick out a teammate in the U’s’ box, and the ball was cleared.
Just as it looked as though City had gained a foothold in the game, they were punished again by another set-piece. Chris Maguire’s in-swinging cross from the right found Bowery unmarked to nod home his second and Oxford’s third goal of the game a minute before the hour mark.
The visitors notched another three minutes later in what was becoming a difficult evening for the Grecians. This time it was MacDonald who got in on the act, connecting with another corner from the left-hand side to head past Olejnik.
A spree of substitutions mid-way through the half disrupted the flow of the game as Oxford looked content to hold their lead rather continue to push forward. In the seventy-seventh minute Alex Nicholls restored a glimmer of hope for the Grecians, as his driven effort nestled into the far corner.
Nicholls’ strike had given City some belief, and they came close to adding another two minutes later as Dunkley nipped in to prevent Taylor from releasing an effort from close-range. Oxford new-boy George Waring had looked lively since his introduction and came within inches of scoring on his debut, heading against the crossbar in the eighty-fourth minute with Olejnik left stranded.
Four minutes were added at the end of the game, but neither side went close to adding to the scoresheet. The referee’s full-time whistle brought to an end a difficult evening for the Grecians, and they will look to bounce back with a positive result away at Stevenage on Saturday.
FULL-TIME: EXETER CITY 1–4 OXFORD UNITED
Attendance: 3,089 (317 away)
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