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Oxford United 2-1 Burton Albion – Oxford Mail verdict

Byoxfordnewspaper

Sep 5, 2022

IT was not pretty, but that will be of little concern to Karl Robinson and Oxford United right now.

The U’s simply had to beat rock-bottom Burton Albion after a disappointing transfer deadline day cast a shadow over a productive week on the pitch.

A hard-fought win over Cheltenham Town and the midweek thrashing of Leyton Orient would quickly be forgotten if they could not overcome a team that conceded 18 Sky Bet League One goals before the end of August.

READ MORE: Karl Robinson on free agents, deadline day and injured players making progress

The absence of Matty Taylor and Steve Seddon, two players who are key to the 3-5-2 formation brought in to cope with an already-lengthy injury list, suggested we might not see the free-flowing performance United produced when the Brewers last came to the Kassam Stadium in March.

That 4-1 win kept the U's fourth in League One and they seemed odds-on to reach the play-offs, but instead it marked the start of their end of season slide.

An injury to Sam Baldock in the second half had a huge impact on United's promotion push and their form has been disappointing since then.

The visitors' time-wasting meant a repeat of Burton's last visit was even more difficult, with referee Robert Madden happy to let Tom Hamer use up several minutes over his long throws.

That he only played one minute of stoppage-time was laughable and it could have come back to bite the U's when he made up for it with a lengthy additional period in the second half.

RATINGS: Every Oxford United player marked out of 10 for display against Burton

It was tough for the U’s to build up momentum, but Cameron Brannagan made the difference at a crucial stage of the game.

The midfielder’s sixth goal of the campaign means he has scored 20 times since the beginning of last season.

The fact that his prolific form is just one aspect of what he brings to United shows his importance and he always seems to rise to the challenge when faced with adversity.

Kyle Joseph continues to get in the right positions and he scored for the third time in seven matches, yet it was never going to be straightforward and United endured a nervier finale than they would have liked.

James Golding and Slavi Spasov came on at a crucial time and helped the U's get over the line, while Gatlin O'Donkor applied himself well against a physical Burton backline.

HIGHLIGHTS: Watch the goals here

After a tough start to the season, it feels strange to see the U’s in the top half of League One, two points shy of the play-off places.

Positions can change drastically when the table is bunched up at this stage of the campaign, of course, but even at the start of September you can find yourself playing catch-up.

Despite the injuries, United have picked up seven points from their last three games – against poor teams, admittedly – and that says a lot about their character.

If they can grind out a few more results until players like Taylor, Josh Murphy, Sam Baldock and Elliott Moore are available again, many fans would not mind waiting a little longer for the free-flowing football to return.