The Kassam Stadium hosted the clash of the bottom two teams of the Football League as Oxford United welcomed Tranmere Rovers. Oxford United came into this game on the back of a horrible, televised 5-1 defeat to Cambridge United which saw them slip back into the relegation zone. Tranmere Rovers, however, entered the game after a turbulent week following the departure of Rob Edwards after a 1-0 defeat at home to Plymouth and then the appointment of ex Port Vale boss Micky Adams, who watched the game from the stands.

The game started off quite flat and after 10 minutes only a George Barker chip was the only real attempt on goal. This changed however on 19′ as smart work down the left saw the ball fall again for Barker who forced Clarke into a fantastic one-handed save down low to his right. Then just 7 minutes later, fantastic work from U’s débutante Tareiq Holmes-Dennis saw Hylton burst through before squaring to Tyrone Barnett who smashed home. Oxford United continued to pressure the shell shocked Rovers as Barnett forced a brilliant save yet again from Brezovan following a drilled header which was pushed wide smartly and then gathered by the Tranmere goalkeeper. Just a few minutes later United were on the attack again with Barnett as the ball fell to him on the edge of the box but Brezovan stood strong and blocked the goal-bound strike emphatically. Oxford deservedly went into half time 1-0 up and after resilient defending from Tranmere, they were unlucky not to be ahead by more.

Oxford started the second half at the same tempo as they had left the first. On 49′, Callum O’Dowda made a tricky run down the left flank and crossed for the unmarked Tyrone Barnett but his effort bounced wide to the left of Brezovan. Soon after, Oxford were once more scratching their heads as to why they were not 2-0 up as brilliant build up play, this time from Riley and O’Dowda, saw Hilton looking certain to put the ball in the back of the net but quite superb defending from Tranmere saw the ball cannon against the bar and bounce perilously close to the goal line before being cleared. Oxford’s efforts were duly rewarded on 70 minutes as Riley’s cross flashed across goal before the returning Alfie Potter smartly finished the move. The U’s lead 2-0, a score at which was to remain and Oxford extended their unbeaten home run. It was such an important result for Appleton as the U’s climb out of the relegation zone and the 5-1 defeat a week before will now be forgotten. Tranmere however remain bottom of The Football League and Micky Adams will be looking to build on his first game in charge.

 Oxford United (4-2-3-1)

 Ryan Clarke – Made an outstanding save from an early Tranmere effort. He was commanding and stepped up to the plate when called for. 8.0
 Joe Riley – Superb going forward and his crosses were accurate and efficient. His defensive performance was also very strong and he has a well graphed clean-sheet to his name. 8.0
 Johnny Mullins – Mullins again was exceptional in containing the aerial threat of Odejayi and had a very solid game. 8.5
 Jake Wright – Wright involved himself in a scuffle with Odejayi after a potential elbow but remained professional and didn’t let this get the better of him. A very good performance indeed. 7.5
 Tareiq Holmes-Dennis – The Oxford United debutante, after signing last week, showed fantastic work rate and maturity. Oxford fans were questioning the signing of the youngster but he proved the critics wrong with this display. 9.0
 Michael Collins – Consistency has been one of Michael Collins’ stand out traits and he continued with that today. His ball retention rate was superb and he held a strong defensive partnership with Whing. 7.5
 Andy Whing – Whing shrugged off a nervy start and when he settled down he showed the relentlessness and ruthlessness that Oxford have needed in recent weeks. His presence also seemed to stop the defensive frailties that Oxford have struggled with. 7.5
 Danny Hylton – Fantastic work rate and an assist to his name made Hylton a strong Man of The Match contender. He was pivotal in Oxford’s strong performance. 8.5
 Danny Rose – Rose found a way back into the starting eleven after Brian Howard was subsequently dropped after picking up a slight knock midweek. He was sharp and dominating in midfield and had a very good game. 8.0
 Callum O’Dowda – The tricky winger has been quiet the last few games but was back to his usual self on Saturday. He was very positive and was extremely unlucky not to bag an assist after an excellent pullback for Hylton whose effort hit the bar. 7.0
 Tyrone Barnett – Barnett was exceptional. His work rate was superb and he seemed to get on the end of everything Oxford created. He was duly awarded the Man of The Match award and a goal to his name. 9.0


 James Roberts – Earning his home debut James Roberts was lively when he came on but due to the short amount of time that he played he was unable to muster Oxford’s third 6.0
 Alfie Potter – Potter was extremely important coming off the bench and made an instant impact after scoring the all important second goal for Oxford to kill the game off. 7.5
 Josh Ruffels – Filled in nicely for Collins who was taken off for a standing ovation 7.0

 Tranmere Rovers (4-3-3)

 Peter Brezovan – Brezovan was by far the best Tranmere player on the pitch as he pulled of a number of fine saves to deny Oxford. 8.0
 Janoi Donacien – The young fullback was subject to a barrage of Oxford attacks and there was little that he could really do about them. He had a fairly decent game however snuffing out drives from O’Dowda and Holmes-Dennis. 6.5
 Marcus Holness – He often left Barnett unmarked and struggled to contain the target man. It was a day to forget for Holness. 5.0
 Michael Ihiekwe – The centre half counterpart of Holness also struggled to contain Barnett within the box. He was strong when it came to aerial challenges however in the middle of the park. 6.0
 Danny Holmes – Holmes had a tough task in containing Hylton and Riley but he didn’t do too badly. He made an excellent last ditch tackle to cannon the ball off of the crossbar to deny Oxford in which was an impressive performance. 7.0
 Jason Koumas – The midfielder had a quiet game and did not get involved in the game as much as he should have. 5.0
 Matt Gill – Had a decent first half but was forced off at half time after sustaining an injury. 6.0
 Max Power – Also not efficient enough in midfield. Ball retention was poor and was often dominated in midfield. 6.0
 George Donnelly – The forward usually seems to muster a goal against Oxford but could not find the back of the net on Saturday. He was sharp but could not manage to influence the team enough. 7.0
 Kayode Odejayi – The strong and powerful centre forward was efficient in the air but inefficient in finding the target. More was expected and needed from the striker. 6.5
 George Barker – Was a breath of fresh air in a somewhat stagnant Tranmere side and forced a very good one hand save from Clarke early in the first half. 7.5


 Marc Laird – Replaced Gill well but was not able to muster any influence into the Tranmere side 6.5
 Elliott Richards – Came on for Odejayi but was almost non existent in the short time he was on for 5.0
 Abdullai Baggie – Was lively and won a couple of good Fredericks in good areas. However his efforts were not enough to inspire a comeback 6.5


Man of the Match

Tyrone Barnett – Was found on the end of almost every Oxford cross and was highly influential and inspiring. He was unlucky not to grab more than one goal but the fine form of Brezovan denied this 9.0


*All images belong to Oxford United @OUFClive

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.

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