Report: Oxford 0-2 Southend United
Southend United ended their six game winless run with a fantastic 2-0 away win at Oxford United, who began the day second in League 2.
Conor Clifford, making his first start since Wycombe Wanderers at the end of August, handed Blues an early lead before Luke Prosser got his first of the season to double Blues’ lead in the 30th minute.
Oxford, poor in the first half, rallied in the second, with Daniel Bentley having to make a fine save from substitute James Constable. Blues had chances of their own but in the end, two proved enough to ensure they got back to winning ways in League 2.
Phil Brown was without two of his most experienced players as Mark Phillips and Freddy Eastwood missed out through injury. In came Ben Coker, back from suspension, Clifford and Cauley Woodrow.
Anthony Straker moved to the bench in place of Clifford, and was joined by Craig Reid, Paul Smith, Michael Timlin, Jack Payne and Ryan Auger.
Oxford almost went ahead with just two minutes on the clock as Deane Smalley was played in behind Blues’ defence, but his shot across Bentley went just wide.
Woodrow then had Blues’ first chance of the game as his left-footed volley was held by Ryan Clarke, before Dave Kitson fired just wide for the hosts.
With 14 minutes gone, Clifford marked his return to the side with a goal to give Blues the lead. Ryan Leonard’s cross wasn’t cleared and fell kindly for Clifford who took one touch before firing a low drive past Clarke from 20-yards.
Oxford, without a win in their last three games at home before the game, appeared unsettled having gone behind. They did however create a good chance just before the half-hour mark, but Bentley saved Johnny Mullins’ header.
Minutes later and Blues doubled their lead. Kevan Hurst actually slipped as he whipped in a free-kick, but it was still good enough to find Prosser, who headed past Clarke.
Oxford improved at the start of the second half, as Alfie Potter crossed for Michael Raynes who headed just over the cross bar.
At the other end, Blues were playing well on the break and after Will Atkinson wasted the chance to get a shot off, Hurst forced an excellent save from Clarke after good work from Woodrow.
Oxford rallied again and after Bentley had pulled off a fine save from a dangerous ball into the box, Raynes again headed just over the crossbar.
Bentley was then called into action again with 20 minutes to as substitute Callum O’Dowda crossed for an unmarked Constable. The striker’s header was a good one, but Blues’ goalkeeper made a strong save to push it away to safety.
Blues were still threatening and should have put the game beyond doubt in the 76th minute. Atkinson put Woodrow in the clear, but the striker was denied by Clarke with Corr also waiting to tap it in.
Woodrow then had another chance moments later as he latched on to Bentley’s clearance, but his header didn’t have enough power to loop over Clarke.
Those misses didn’t prove costly however as Blues kept it tight defensively to earn an excellent 2-0 win and make it three games without defeat.
Blues: Bentley; White, Thompson, Prosser, Coker; Atkinson, Leonard, Clifford, Hurst (Straker 87); Corr, Woodrow (Reid 84)
Subs: Smith, Payne, Auger, Timlin