MICKEY SHOWS TRUE COLOURS
IF MICKEY Lewis takes over the reins at Oxford on a permanent basis, one ingredient that won’t be lacking at the Kassam Stadium is attacking football.
Birthday boy Lewis threw caution to the wind in selecting four strikers against Mansfield and his gamble paid off, two of them in David Connolly and Deane Smalley finishing off smart moves either side of Nicky Wroe’s second-half thunderbolt.
The U’s have gone unbeaten in five since Chris Wilder left for Northampton Town last month and though Lewis refused to be drawn into questions over his future, he admits the players are buying into his philosophy.
“I was trying to keep my birthday quiet but there’s not much chance of that – the three points were great,” he said.
“Ryan (Clarke) made a couple of great saves but in the second half we’ve gone on won those second balls a bit more.
“All the goals were excellent. We thought we’d go with four forwards to win the game and we’re pleased with the result.
“We all talked about it and thought, ‘let’s go and win the game’. We played Smalley a little deeper while we had (James) Constable, (Dave) Kitson and Connolly but we rode our luck a little bit and could have gone a goal down.
“But the players have all got a goal in them and the third goal showed our quality across the team and hopefully we can keep playing like that.”
U’s keeper Ryan Clarke continued to prove why he was named League Two Player of the Month for January, his lightning reactions twice denying Clucas early on.
His heroics gave Oxford the platform to take the lead as Connolly shrugged off close attention to spin and fire home.
The visitors were breached again early in the second half and in fine fashion, midfielder Wroe cutting inside and sending a rocket into the top corner.
Connolly and Constable were also continuing to cause havoc and when the latter hit the post in the 68th minute, Smalley was at hand to tap in and wrap up victory.
And while Oxford are bursting at the seams with strikers, Stags manager Paul Cox admits it is the one department his side are sorely lacking in.
He said:“We have been saying it for a long time now, we just need that extra body, that little bit more quality which will help players like Sam (Clucas), (Matt) Rhead become better. We have been crying out for one for five or six weeks.
“We had enough chances to win three football matches and even though we passed the ball very well, we should have been giving their goalkeeper no chance with some of the opportunities we had.
“Oxford are in a different place to us, they’re going for the top three and they’ve got the knowhow. This is a massive learning curve for us and they are one of the benchmarks. I think we were the best side for the majority
of the game.”
OXFORD: (4-3-3): Clarke 8, Bevans 7, Hunt 7, Mullins 7, Newey 8, Wroe 8, Rose 7, Smalley 7, Kitson 6, Connolly (Williams 78 6) 8, Constable 7 (Potter N/A 90) Subs not used: Marsh, Long, O’ Dowda, Ruffels, Henly
MANSFIELD: (3-4-1-2): Marriott 7, Westlake 6, Jennings 5 (Daniel 17 7), Tafazolli 6, Dempster 5, Riley 4 (McGuire 45 5), Clements 5, Howell 5 (Palmer 83 6), Rhead 6, Clucas 7, Stevenson 6
Subs not used: Deakin, Sutton, Hutchinson, Meikle
STRIKE: Nicky Wroe tees up his shot and scores for Oxford United ON TARGET: Dave Connolly scores for Oxford United STAR MAN RYAN CLARK