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Southend United 0-4 Oxford United
Sol Campbell is still winless in the league, as lacklustre Southend’s grip on survival took yet another body blow after Oxford cantered to an almost routine Saturday afternoon win.
Conceding in the first minute to a gift-wrapped Matt Taylor effort, Christmas came early as James Henry was presented with an easy second. Close to full-time another Taylor strike and sub., Dan Agyei’s effort added insult to injury.
Taylor’s early strike, after intercepting youngster, Richard Taylor’s ‘suicidal’ pass across the face of Nathan Bishop’s goal, left the already beleaguered Blues with an almighty mountain to climb, with barely 53 seconds played.
Co-striker, Henry, almost doubled the high-flying U’s lead, on eight minutes, only for Elvis Bwomono and Bishop to make a brave combined block.
The shot-shy Shrimpers had only a Simon Cox blocked effort, on 17 minutes, before muted penalty appeals sounded out from Rob Dickie climbing all over the hitman from Stephen McLaughlin’s ensuing flag-kick.
Oxford continued to pepper the Southend goal, with Bishop having to block several Tarique Fosu efforts, before the hapless stopper was left in no man’s land – on 33 minutes – when Timothee Dieng’s shocking pass gave Henry a free hit, almost bursting the home net, from 18 yards.
It just wasn’t the Blues’ day when Alex Rodriguez-Gorrin – already on a yellow card following a crude challenge on McLaughlin – was lucky not to concede a spot-kick from the winger’s 36th minute drive.
Southend almost got a foothold deep into stoppage time, with Cox and Tom Hopper combining, but neither could find a finish after, at least, stretching the U’s backline.
It was the U’s – 14 games unbeaten in all competitions – who started the second period on the front foot, with Fosu beating Ralph – on 50 minutes – after Mark Sykes had all too easily dummied Richard Taylor on the halfway line.
Campbell made a 58th minute switch, replacing Richards Taylor with midfielder, Isaac Hutchinson.
The academy graduate, Hutchinson, didn’t disappoint and within a minute of his introduction shot inches wide after creating the chance from a fine run.
That was as good as it got for the Shrimpers as Henry was denied – almost under the crossbar – on 70 minutes – by Dieng after Bishop had strayed off his line, allowing Chris Cadden to cross.
Oxford – without creating many chances after the turnaround – put a gloss on their victory when Henry crossed for Taylor to pick his spot and fire past Bishop, with five minutes remaining.
If three wasn’t enough to compound the Blues’ woes, then sub, Agyei, on for Fosu, netted with an angled drive, with literally his first touch, to once again send the 905 travelling supporters wild.
Sol Campbell said after the game: “We’ve got to have a good look at ourselves and cut out those silly mistakes. We’ve also got to learn as a team how to win and lose together. We did have opportunities today, but we didn’t test their keeper”.
Having conceded at least three, sloppy goals, Campbell added: “We’re better than that. We gifted them two or three goals. I wish the opposition could do that!”
He admitted: “Everyone’s frustrated. I think we have to learn to play – either short or long. But, it’s a big challenge and I’m looking forward to the January transfer window.”
Campbell added: “I can understand the fans’ frustrations. But, management isn’t an easy job – even if you’ve got money.”
He concluded: “It’s a mountain to climb – but I’m willing to climb it.”
Southend United: Nathan Bishop, Elvis Bwomono, Rob Kiernan, Richard Taylor (Isaac Hutchinson 58), Timothee Dieng, Ethan Hamilton (Brandon Goodship 68), Nathan Ralph, Mark Milligan (capt), Stephen McLaughlin, Simon Cox, Tom Hopper. Subs: Mark Oxley, Matt Rush, Jason Demetriou, Layton Ndukwu, Emile Acquah.
Oxford United: Simon Eastwood, Chris Cadden, Rob Dickie, John Mousinho (capt), Josh Ruffels, Mark Sykes, Alex Rodriguez-Gorrin (Elliott Moore 81), Tarique Fosu (Dan Agyei 86), James Henry, Anthony Forde (Rob Hall 72), Matt Taylor. Subs: Jack Stevens, Sam Long, Nico Jones.
Referee: Tom Nield
Assistants: Matthew Lee and Adrian Tranter
Fourth Official: Paul Lister