There was drama galore in England’s third tier this weekend with Sunderland A.F.C. scoring a late penalty to deny struggling Bolton Wanderers F.C. a first win of the season, early contenders Wycombe Wanderers F.C. overcoming a heated game at home to Portsmouth F.C. and Tranmere Rovers F.C. coming from 1-0 down to win 2-1 against Burton Albion F.C. with two injury time strikes. However, there was one true standout performance in the division and that came at Sincil Bank.
EFL League One Team Of the Week: Oxford United
After it was announced that manager Danny Cowley and his brother, assistant manager Nicky Cowley, were to leave the Imps to join Championship side Huddersfield Town, the spotlight was focused upon whether Lincoln City F.C. could still maintain the impressive start they had made to life in the third tier without the management team that masterminded their promotion. It is safe to say it hasn’t gone well. After a loss to Bristol Rovers F.C. and a draw at Rochdale A.F.C., Lincoln were hoping that they would gain their first win in the post-Cowley era when Oxford United F.C. came to town.
With only two league wins from nine matches in the league season, Oxford manager Karl Robinson would have seen this fixture as an opportunity to capitalise on Lincoln’s misfortune. His team did not disappoint, putting in a performance worthy of beating any team in the division. The U’s came out of the blocks at some pace as with less than five minutes on the clock, forwards Jamie Mackie and Tariqe Fosu-Henry played a neat one-two on the edge of the Lincoln box, culminating with the latter firing into the bottom corner past a despairing Josh Vickers.
The second goal for the visitors came towards the end of the first half as Liverpool F.C. loanee Ben Woodburn picked up the ball on the right wing and threaded a beautifully weighted pass in the direction of Fosu-Henry. Despite Vickers’ attempts to narrow the angle, Fosu-Henry calmly took the ball to one side of the keeper, firing past him into an empty net. It got worse for the home side soon after the restart, as Mackie cut inside Lincoln centre-back Cian Bolger and improvised a curling finish which deceived Vickers and nestled into the corner of the net. Any hope of a Lincoln comeback had surely faded by now.
A fourth goal was soon on the horizon. After the ball looped up in the air following a deflection from an Oxford shot, James Henry kept his concentration to volley the ball into the net from around 15 yards, giving Vickers absolutely no chance of keeping it out. Following this, Fosu-Henry was obviously keen to complete his hat trick and did so in stunning style. Beating Callum Connolly rather easily in the midfield, the tricky winger set his sights and fired an astonishing dipping effort over Vickers and into the top corner from 30 yards out. The Lincoln keeper was stranded and the Oxford fans were jubilant.
The Lincoln fans’ misery was still not over, as in the 79th minute Oxford rounded off their exceptional afternoon with one last goal. Full-back Chris Cadden found himself with the ball on the right wing and took the opportunity to fizz in an inch-perfect cross which was met by Matty Taylor, who calmly headed into the back of the net. A 6-0 win for Oxford United and while they will want to remember this day for some time to come, Lincoln fans will already be erasing it from their memory.
EFL League One Player Of The Week: Tariqe Fosu-Henry
Sticking with the same game, Oxford manager Karl Robinson was shown that his decision to bring Fosu-Henry to the club was the right one. After leaving Charlton Athletic F.C. at the end of last season following their promotion to the EFL Championship, Fosu-Henry was keen to show he could add more goals to his game after failing to hit double figures in the league in both his seasons at The Valley. With only one goal so far this season too, the winger showed just what he is capable of on Saturday and all three goals were taken with the confidence that a player of such quality should have. Naturally right-footed, his first goal of the afternoon showed he is adept with both feet, as when the opportunity to take a shot with his left foot came around he hit a brilliant effort into the bottom corner of the net, getting the early goal Oxford would have wanted.
His second goal again showed the composure in front of goal Fosu-Henry may previously have been missing from his game, calmly rolling the ball home after great work from his teammates. He was at the heart of most dangerous attacks Oxford put together and capped off a deserved hat trick with a goal that wouldn’t have looked out of place in the Premier League. In fact, the similarities it had with a goal Gylfi Sigurdsson scored for Everton F.C. against Leicester City F.C. last season are uncanny. With both goals, the ball initially looks like it is sailing over the bar ready to be met by the jeers of the opposition fans. But suddenly, the ball finishes its ascent and drops perfectly into the top corner, leaving the goalkeeper gobsmacked. Not many goals can be given the term unsavable, but just as Sigurdsson’s was last year, Fosu-Henry’s third on Saturday certainly fits into that category.
What needs to happen now is Fosu-Henry doesn’t make this a one-off. Obviously, he won’t be scoring three goals a game week in and week out. Although, he needs to be a potent threat every game, a player League One defences fear when he is bearing down on them. It is clear he has all the ability to do that and this is one step in the direction of potentially being one of the players of the season.