Alex left in shock as Oxford run riot at Gresty Road with five goals in 13 minutes.
A clinical Oxford United scored five goals in 13 minutes either side of half-time to inflict a heavy 6-0 defeat on Crewe Alexandra.
Karl Robinson’s side were lethal at Gresty Road and deserve all the credit but Crewe were their own worst enemies with our defending as a team. The 6-0 defeat equalled the loss at Colchester United back in August 2018 and inflicted our worst home defeat since losing Rotherham United in September 1973 when the Millers won 8-1 at Gresty Road.
It is Crewe’s third successive home defeat and leaves any hopes of pushing for a play-off place in tatters. It was a head scratcher to say the least because we didn’t see that level of performance or result coming.
With the fixtures coming thick and fast, David Artell made two changes to the side that impressively defeated MK Dons on Easter Monday. Donervon Daniels returned to the starting XI ahead of the versatile Luke Offord. Midfielder Tom Lowery failed a late fitness test after picking up but Crewe were boosted by the fact that Callum Ainley was deemed fit enough to start.
Ainley suffered a severe cut to the ankle on Monday but made himself available for selection.
Following the passing of HRH Prince Phillip at the age of 99, there was an impeccable two-minute silence in respect of his seven decades of service to the monarchy. The players also wore black armbands.
A promising start from the Alex saw Daniels and Mandron combine to find Ainley in space some 20 yards from goal. He quickly turned it out to the left wing to Kirk and his shot took a deflection off of Sam Long to take the pace of his shot and the Oxford captain Elliott Moore completed the clearance.
A jittery moment from Omar Beckles saw his lifted back pass caused Will Jaaskelainen a real moment of concern and the Alex goalkeeper had to volley it behind for a cheap corner.
A great through ball from Daniels found Mandron in behind but he thought he was offside and didn’t quite get the ball under his spell as it dropped over his shoulder.
Oxford created the best chance of the early exchanges after 15 minutes when a slick move from the visitors saw Mark Sykes going through the centre of the Crewe defence but Jaaskelainen stood up well to make a smart save. Sykes would have been disappointed not to have taken full advantage in the centre of the Crewe goal.
Almost immediately Murphy couldn’t quite adjust his body enough to turn his header from Kirk’s accurate cross. It wasn’t the easiest of chances.
On 25 minutes, a well delivered free-kick from Murphy found Dale manoeuvre a yard of space and his well met header bounced just wide of the far post.
Five minutes later, Crewe conjured up their best chance of the first half. A slip in the Oxford midfield presented the ball to Murphy and his excellent through ball found Dale. He took it in his stride to get a clear shot at goal. The winger elected to go near post instead of shooting across goal and his low shot smacked the outside of the post.
Mikael Mandron was rather fortunate to survive a penalty area when he seemed to pull Rob Atkinson over. The referee waved away the appeals. Matty Taylor drilled a shot straight at Jaaskelainen before the flurry of Oxford goals began to arrive before the half-time break.
There wasn’t too much between the two sides until the visitors broke the deadlock on 36 minutes. The sloppiness began to slip into our game. Sam Long took on Kirk to cross from the left and Sykes flicked the ball on at the near post ahead of Beckles and Josh Ruffles’ downward header should have really been kept out by Jaaskelainen.
Crewe tried to hit back quickly after a lovely touch from Daniels released Dale but his cross was cut out by Atkinson before it reached Mandron. It should have found the Crewe striker.
On 40 minutes, Crewe gifted away the second goal. Lancashire and Daniels made a mess of possession close to the sideline and the excellent Barker went for the jugular. He went past both players to reach the by-line and his pull-back was tucked home by James Henry. His shot took a deflection off Beckles on its way in.
It got even worse for Crewe in first half stoppage time. The Alex didn’t look set at a free-kick and the giant Moore moved ahead of Beckles to take a touch and before Jaaskelainen could smother the loose ball, he poked home a third goal to leave Crewe with an absolute mountain to climb.
Unsurprisingly, David Artell made two substitutions at the break with Nathan Wood and Chris Porter replacing Lancashire and Ainley. It didn’t have the desired effect before within the first 90 seconds, the rampant U’s made it 4-0. Well, Barker did.
The former Manchester City trainee picked possession from Dale close to the half-way line. He cleverly tricked his way past Daniels before cutting inside and racing towards the Crewe goal. We didn’t come out to engage quickly enough and after holding off the intentions of Wood, he fired his shot through the legs of Beckles and past Jaaskelainen for a wonderful solo goal.
Crewe were crumbling and within five minutes of the restart it was 5-0. With confidence brimming, Oxford toyed with the Alex backline before Sykes produced a sublime piece of skill to trick his way past Beckles to go on through goal and in desperation he pulled the forward down for a penalty. Cameron Brannagan stepped up but saw his spot-kick saved by the diving Jaaskelainen but the ball rebounded back into the Oxford midfielder and he tucked home the rebound with ease.
After good work from Kirk, Dale should have pulled one back with a close range header but he got underneath it and sent it high over the crossbar. That would be the winger’s last touch as Artell quickly made three final changes in the 54th minute. It really could have been anyone in a red shirt this afternoon in truth, but it was Daniels, Kirk and Dale making way for Offord, Walker and Evans.
It was damage limitation time at Gresty Road and Crewe had another let-off when Sykes stole the ball from Beckles but fired a yard wide of the far post.
Karl Robinson made a double change of his own with Dan Agyei and Sam Winnall on for Matty Taylor and Elliott Lee.
Jaaskelainen made a fine save to deny Henry his second goal after he was slipped in down the Crewe left. His forceful shot was pushed away by the Crewe goalkeeper and Winnall couldn’t keep his follow-up effort down enough and it sailed harmlessly over the crossbar.
Evans tried to inject some inventiveness and creativity and tried to get on the ball as much as possible. He nearly found Mandron inside the Oxford box but he couldn’t make the most of it and Oxford continued to defend their box really well.
Oxford made it six with seven minutes remaining. The two Oxford subs combined down the Crewe left hand side to complete the rout. Dan Agyei drove at Pickering and his far post cross missed out the head of Wood perfectly and the vastly experienced Winnall nodded home from close range. It was another well crafted goal by the visitors but so easy for them.
Beckles’ troublesome afternoon ended with a yellow card through frustration.
Crewe wanted the whistle and thankfully it came before another Oxford goal.