Oxford United 2-1 Wigan Athletic: A late Oxford Onslaught secures a dramatic victory for promotion hopefuls
Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images

A lacklustre first-half, followed by an entertaining half-time show and a dramatic finale, secured an ugly victory for the U's, who move to seventh, within one point of the play-offs.

Despite Callum Langs’ scrappy opener, Oxford United produced goals from Sam Winnall and Elliott Moore to cause a comeback upset. 

It was Karl Robinson and Oxford's most important win of the season, a three-point haul that won't be forgotten in their road to Championship promotion. 

Story of the match

After a lightning start to life in 2021, Karl Robinson was handed the chance to roll the dice with his lineup, making five changes to the side that subdued Bristol Rovers in midweek.

It was one of the changes, Anthony Forde, who was at the centre of attention in the opening minutes. A shaky start to the U's defence allowed Wigan the freedom of expression down Oxford's right.

Deputising for Sam Long, Forde was pickpocketed by the Wigan left-winger Thelo Aasgaard, conceding a corner that came to nothing. 

The first twenty minutes saw no big chance for either side, with the ball staying mostly on the halfway line, bobbling upon every pass. The Yellows' midfield struggled, while Wigan maintained the majority of possession. 

The unattractive football at Grenoble Road started to show a glimmer of hope at the half-hour point when Mark Sykes became a focal point to a quicker transition from midfield to attack.

The U's, after Robinson barking on the touchline, moved the ball faster, but clear-cut chances were still at a premium for either team. Elliott Moore's confrontations with Callum Lang perhaps epitomised the first-half; comedic and scrappy. 

The home side's best chances came from the last remaining attempts of the first segment of the fixture, once the U's started to get a foothold in the game. A rare flurry of corners narrowly missed the head of Moore, their biggest aerial threat.

The dull affair almost sprung to life on the 44th minute, when Oxford were caught sleeping at Wigan's set-piece, forty yards from goal.

No one picked up Luke Robinson, the fullback lifted the ball into Scott Wootton, who was surging forward in the six-yard box. The defender flicked the ball towards the goal, but there wasn't enough purchase to break the deadlock. 

Though plaudits must be given to the Grenoble Road groundsman, for working around the clock to get the game underway, the first segment came to an end with no enjoyment from either side. 

The whistle on the 45th signalled an opportunity, for Wigan and Oxford fans alike, to spend their time more wisely during the break. 

A half-time show to remember

At the start of the second half, the floodlights on the near side of the stadium went off. There wasn't much more that could happen to disrupt this game, but everything that could go wrong did. 

It wasn't quite the show that The Weekend executed at the Super Bowl, but Oxford's half-time show entertained more than the game itself. The problem with the floodlights was that they had set alight.

Certainly, it wasn't a normal Valentine's Day date for anyone; the ball finally got rolling again after the stadium was evacuated and the fire brigade came to the rescue. 

Chaos and pandemonium off the pitch overshadowed the dull performances on the pitch, but the game continued.

Second half

The fire brigade seemed to ignite a bit more enthusiasm into the home side in the first five minutes of the second segment. The ball zipped across the surface a lot quicker, through the engine room of Cameron Brannagan and Mark Sykes. 

A spell of momentum, spreading diagonal balls to each wing, almost brought its rewards for Oxford. A cascading run from Rob Atkinson nearly aided the U's pursuit for a goal.

Riding several challenges, dancing through a cluster of players, before toe-poking it safely into the hands of the Wigan goalkeeper.

However, it was Lang for the visitors who found the first goal of the game. A goal that changed the complexity of the match.

The striker done well to brush off the pressure from Atkinson, looked up, and smashed the ball past Jack Stevens, who couldn't get his hands to the shot. Completely against the run of play, Wigan Athletic found themselves out of the relegation zone, even if only briefly.

Robinson's team nearly found an equaliser after Sykes glided onto the edge of the box, sliding Sam Winnall through on goal. Winnall wasted his golden opportunity by taking too many touches, forcing the ball wide and producing a save from the Latics 'keeper.

The Yellows were becoming frustrated and they were starting to run out of ideas, but a tantalisingly inviting cross from Brandon Barker met the head of Sam Winnall on the 72nd minute.

The former Barnsley striker headed home the equaliser; he opened his League One account for Oxford. A momentum change went in the favour of the U's and a mantra of corners followed for the in-form team.

Suddenly, what was a dull and unimaginative game, became an inferno in south Oxfordshire. Wigan were struggling to get out their half with 25 minutes to go as Oxford sensed urgency.

A murmur of complacency crept over Wigan Athletic after Moore scrambled the ball across the line to make it two-nil to the U's.

Elliott Moore's decision to stay upfield following an Oxford corner proved significant to Robinson's men's fortunes. The substitute, Olamide Shodipo, looped the ball to Moore, who was crowded by both Wigan Centre-halves, but the number five won the battle for the ball and lifted it over the goalkeeper. 

Despite Oxford United's continuation of onslaughts on Jamie Jones' goal, the game fizzled out and ended 2-1, moving Oxford to one point from playoffs. 

Man of the match: Mark Sykes

Mark Sykes was Oxford's creative driving force at Grenoble Road in Sunday's rearranged game; the midfielder played astutely through the entire game, even when his side's lacklustre first-half prohibited his creativity.

A livewire in the heart of midfield, Sykes has now impressed in two games in a row under the supervision of Robinson, perhaps cementing a spot in the starting eleven. 

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