Oxford United came into the fixture on the back of a very up and down Christmas period. They first played out a disastrous and uninspiring 2-0 defeat to Shrewsbury before turning over Plymouth at Home Park 1-2 in dramatic fashion. Paul Buckle’s Cheltenham have endured a gruelling period of late without a win in 75 days but were boosted by Liverpool trio, Jack Dunne, Kevin Stewart and Lloyd Jones securing loan deals with the Robins.

The opening passages of play were dominated by the hosts. Oxford starlet Roberts was the first to test Carson after fantastic work by Jon Meades saw the youngster burst through on goal, forcing the Robins keeper into a fine finger-tip save. Cheltenham had flickers of half-chances but remained frustrated after resolute defending, particularly by Mullins, keeping the lively Jack Dunne at bay. Oxford finally broke the deadlock on 20′. Fantastic midfield work by Whing saw Burns break away before playing the ball to Roberts. His curled effort was blocked by Jones but the loose ball found its way to Hylton. The U’s top scorer clipped the rebound back into the box where it was met by Burns who headed home. Oxford, deservedly ahead. The game levelled out from then on and neither team mustered any chances. This all changed on 40′ as Cheltenham loanee and debutant, Jack Dunne clipped the ball round Wright with ease and fired home the volley in emphatic fashion. The game then swayed in Cheltenham’s direction and on 45′ the turnover was complete. This time it was Liverpool loanee Kevin Stewart who struck a tame effort on goal which wickedly kicked up on the muddy goal mouth with Clarke spilling into his own net. It was a terrible goal for the U’s to concede and one that was going to cost them.

The second half continued to be dominated by the U’s but it was the visitors which had the better of the opening chances. Jack Dunne was once again set free on goal, who rounded Clarke but was forced wide due to a hand from the U’s goalkeeper and ultimately was unable to convert the chance which was cleared off the line. U’s man Danny Hylton then burst into the box and from 6 yards out forced a magnificent save off the legs of Carson who stood up big blocking the effort. The game then became stagnant and flat. Oxford were laboured and lethargic in their build-up. They created half chance after half chance but nothing clear cut. Passes were being misplaced and the ball wouldn’t stick up front. This lacklustre approach has become a theme of Michael Appleton’s side in recent weeks, which has angered and frustrated Oxford fans. People have begun to doubt Appleton and it has not come as a surprise. The uninspired Oxford could not muster an equaliser and bowed out 2-1 to the Robins. Paul Buckle’s side were strong defensively and will be delighted to end their barren run. A poor afternoon for Appleton, whose credibility is on the line, will be looking to rectify these results and has ascertained the fans of a busy transfer window.

Oxford United

 Ryan Clarke – Was at fault for both the goals conceded. Seemed indecisive and nervous which is an unfamiliar description of the U’s stopper, who is usually commanding and consistent 4.5
 Johnny Mullins – Mullins had a terrific first half and didn’t have an awful lot to do in the second. He will be very disappointed with the result 7.0
 Chey Dunkley – Making his full home debut, Dunkley did well for himself. He was strong in the air and a presence going forward for set pieces. 7.5
 Jake Wright – The U’s captain was turned too easily by Jack Dunne and had a poor game overall. 5.0
 Jon Meades – Meades had a good first half, proving efficient going forward but seemed hesitant to go forward in the second. 6.5
 Andy Whing – Andy Whing had a good 30 minutes until he picked up a yellow card. This killed the game off for Whing and he became woeful. His passing was poor and he lost the midfield. One to forget for Whing. 5.0
 Josh Ruffels – Ruffels was quiet but did what he had to do when he had the ball, spreading the play nicely at times to the wide men. 6.0
 Tareiq Holmes-Dennis – Holmes-Dennis was fantastic defensively and did well going forward. His crossing was fairly poor and was ultimately less impressive in this more forward role 7.5
 Danny Hylton – The tireless forward was a nuisance to the Robins defence throughout the 90. He squandered a marvellous chance late on however which was saved by Carson 8.0
 Wes Burns – Was brilliant in the first half and bagged a goal. However the game passed him and his decision making became poor 6.0
 James Roberts – Goals have been coming aplenty for the teenager but Saturday was different. He was quiet and the game passed him for large spells leaving the youngster frustrated 6.0

Substitutions

 John Campbell – The poacher was good coming off the bench. He saw his improvised flicked attempt cleared off the line but could not provide a goal for the U’s 6.5
 Danny Rose – Was lively and involved a lot but his passing and crossing was woeful 6.5
 Callum O’Dowda – failed to involve himself as much as he should have in the short time he was on 5.0

 

Cheltenham Town

 Trevor Carson – Made some fine saves to keep the Robins in the game and was the stand out player. He seemed to gather everything and was simply fantastic. However he showed an inexplicable lack of class, feigning an injury overdramatically in front of the U’s fans 8.0
 Lee Vaughan – Struggled in the first 30 minutes but was resolute from then on 6.5
 Lloyd Jones – The debutant had a tricky time containing Hylton in the opening stages but relaxed and made it a frustrating day for the U’s frontmen 7.0
 Troy Brown – Had a good day preventing Hylton and Roberts. Showed the defensive solidity that his team have lacked recently 7.0
 Craig Braham-Barrett – Had a fairly solid game but most of Oxford’s attacks, including the goal came from his side. 6.0
 Omari Sterling-James – The lively winger was integral in the build up of Cheltenham’s first goal, topping off a sharp perfomance 7.0
 Kevin Stewart – The game passed him for spells but he got his goal to top off a promising debut 6.5
 Kane Ferdinand – Helped to tame the U’s midfield in the second half and put in a good shift 6.5
 Matt Richards – Showed good determination and drive but was wasteful with opportunities at times 6.0
 Terry Gornell – Showed flickers of good but was quiet and didn’t provide enough frontal support for his side 5.0
 Jack Dunne – Seemed to be at the epicentre of all attacks and the lively youngster scored a terrific goal to top off. Brilliant debut 8.0

Substitutions

 Joe Hanks – Came on and didn’t make too much of an impact but did his job well 6.0
 Jack Deamann – Helped his side grind out the 2-1 victory in the few minutes he was on for 6.0
 Harry Williams – Filled in nicely and helped give a bit more energy to the side 6.5

 

Man of the Match

Danny Hylton – Played tirelessly throughout the 90 and gave his all. Got an assist to his name and was really unlucky not to score 8.0

 


About Author

Aspiring sports journalist from Oxford. Also a lifelong supporter and season ticket holder of Oxford United. My job here is to supply brief match reports and player ratings of Oxford United players and the teams they oppose.