Josh Murphy inspired Oxford to an emphatic 5-0 win over Peterborough that keeps them on track for the League One play-offs.

Despite being without key players Elliott Moore and Cameron Brannagan, the U’s were brimming with confidence following successive four-goal wins, and were three up by the break.

They took the lead in the 19th minute when Jadel Katongo fouled Murphy in the box and Mark Harris blasted home the spot-kick.

Murphy headed in keeper Jed Steer’s clearance to make it 2-0 just after the half hour, and the pacy midfielder created the third in the 39th minute for Ruben Rodrigues, who finished neatly from 12 yards.

Owen Dale also hit the post and missed an open goal before the interval, with Oxford dominant.

Posh had chances too, Ricky-Jade Jones missing from close range and striking the underside of the bar from Ephron Mason-Clark’s cross.

Visiting boss Darren Ferguson showed his displeasure by hauling off four players at the interval, but Rodrigues met Finn Stevens’ cross with a sublime diving header after 58 minutes to make it 4-0.

Greg Leigh then hit the post before substitute Billy Bodin completed the rout in the 89th minute with a fine individual effort.

Left-back Greg Leigh headed Oxford’s winner three minutes from time as they sealed a 2-1 victory over Cheltenham to maintain their play-off push.

Cameron Brannagan threatened twice in the first half for Oxford, with Luke Southwood beating out a fierce free-kick and then a drive from the midfielder.

Ruben Rodrigues and Mark Harris also went close before Josh Murphy fired the hosts in front in first-half stoppage time, drilling an angled shot into the far corner from Brannagan’s pass.

Cheltenham created few scoring opportunities, but Oxford goalkeeper Jamie Cuming kept out a low shot from substitute Jordan Thomas midway through the second half.

And Will Ferry equalised with a 20-yard snapshot past Cumming in the 80th minute.

But, just as the Robins must have been thinking they had secured a precious point in their bid to avoid the drop, Owen Dale sent over a deep cross and Leigh powered home a header at the far post.

It earned Oxford only their second win in 11 games.

Portsmouth manager John Mousinho was delighted with the League One leaders’ helter-skelter 2-1 win at home to Oxford.

Christian Saydee came off the bench to score the goal that fired Pompey a step closer to promotion after Cameron Brannagan’s penalty had cancelled out Callum Lang’s opener for the home side.

Mousinho said: “You could describe that as a pretty breathtaking display from both sides. It was an enjoyable game to watch and with both teams pressing, it created openings for us and them.

“I think it was a good advert for Division One football and I personally think Oxford would be feeling a little hard done by not to go away with at least a point.

“It was probably not our best performance of the season but after what has historically been draws between the sides, it was nice to get the win.

“We started well with the goal but then shot ourselves in the foot for their penalty.

“We seemed to feel a bit sorry for ourselves after that until half-time and we were in fact slow starters at the start of the second half.

“But once we got the second, I felt we were in control from that point on.”

In a fast and furious opening 45 minutes, the sides went in all square.

Pompey took the lead in the second minute when a powerful shot from Lang squirmed under goalkeeper Jamie Cumming.

But Oxford equalised after six minutes when Pompey gave the ball away and Sean Raggett brought down ex-Pompey midfielder Owen Dale for a penalty which was easily converted by Brannagan.

Mark Harris then hit the Pompey post on 13 minutes.

Oxford had the first chance of the second half but Josh Murphy was also denied by the woodwork.

Pompey regained the lead after 67 minutes when Saydee held off a strong challenge to run clear and place the ball wide of Cumming.

Oxford pushed for an equaliser but to no avail.

Oxford boss Des Buckingham said: “I think that’s our best performance since taking the reins. But that’s the frustrating thing because we have come away with nothing.

“We’ve done more than enough to have won the game. We’ve hit the post twice and have had opportunities cleared off the line in the second half.

“We did enough to have won a couple of games out there today. If we can perform for the next 10 games like we did today, I will be extremely happy.

“Although frustrating, we have to approach the next game in the same way we did for this game and if we do that we will position ourselves strongly for that.”

Oxford head coach Des Buckingham was delighted with his team’s second-half performance as they beat Wigan 4-2 at the Kassam Stadium for their first win in six games.

He praised 20-year-old Tyler Goodrham who provided the icing on the cake with the fourth goal as the U’s moved back into the top six.

United’s other goals came from Josh Murphy, Cameron Brannagan and Ruben Rodrigues, with Brannagan also seeing a long-range shot smash against the bar.

Buckingham said: “We weren’t at our best in the first half.

“The pleasing thing for me was our response in the second half – and we’ve had players come on who have had a massive impact.

“You have to remember that when players have been out for a while it takes them time to get their match fitness and match sharpness back.

“But we have given them valuable game time now.

“At half-time we spoke about making sure we move the ball quicker and it was trying to give them clarity – simplifying things rather than complicating them.

“With players coming back we now have a lot more options and hopefully with four games unbeaten we can make this a bit of a run.

“Tyler Goodrham’s a wonderful young man who has grown massively.

“It’s a pleasure to watch him and to have a player here who is so bright and so mature for his age.”

Wigan had led through Jordan Jones’s 41st-minute shot, but their level dropped in the second half and Thelo Aasgaard’s second goal for the Latics late on proved not enough.

Wigan boss Shaun Maloney was unhappy with his team’s mentality.

Maloney said: “We were very good up until they scored and the mentality dropped.

“I put myself in the group because it’s all of us – I’ll change that mentality.

“There were two sides to our performance – and one I didn’t like.

“What I didn’t see at half-time and in the second half was an understanding of why we had been so dominant.

“We can’t take things for granted. As soon as we start to think we’re better than we are, we get hurt. You saw that in the second half.

“I’ve got some really good lads in the dressing room and some young ones who are learning.

“They have to understand that football is hard.

“As soon as you think you’re doing OK, other teams will hurt you and that’s what happened tonight.

“What we did with the ball was as good as anything we’ve produced this season.

“But that second half wasn’t. We’ve had second halves like that and games like that because of where we are as a club.

“It’s on me to change the culture at the club.”

Oxford came from behind to beat Wigan 4-2 in a thriller and record their first win in six matches.

Jordan Jones fired the Latics in front in the 41st minute, sprinting past Sam Long before sending a low angled shot into the far corner.

Josh Murphy drilled a shot past keeper Sam Tickle in first-half stoppage time to equalise for the U’s.

Cameron Brannagan put the home side ahead 10 minutes after the restart with a long shot that took a big deflection off Wigan captain Charlie Hughes to leave Tickle wrong-footed.

Sub Ruben Rodrigues added a third in the 76th minute, following up after Tyler Goodrham’s shot came back off the post.

Wigan pulled a second goal back four minutes later when Thelo Aasgaard powered home a header from Jonny Smith’s cross.

But Goodrham ended any last hope by lashing in a fourth in stoppage time.

Earlier, Brannagan struck a ferocious shot from outside the box that smashed against the bar.

Latics’ Josh Magennis was also thwarted by the woodwork, seeing his header pushed against the post by the Oxford keeper.

Oxford boss Des Buckingham felt frustrated as a late equaliser earned Reading a 1-1 draw at the Kassam Stadium.

Royals sub Kelvin Ehibhatiomhan’s strong run down the left 14 minutes from time opened up Oxford’s defence and Ciaron Brown turned the substitute’s cross into his own net.

Oxford had led the Thames Valley derby from the 32nd minute when striker Mark Harris bagged his 12th goal of the season, turning Cameron Brannagan’s pullback into the net from close range.

Buckingham said: “The last two results – two draws at home – are not the results we wanted. We wanted two wins.

“But we are going to get stronger. We had three players missing from midweek, two players making their debuts and we’ll have four players back next week.

“We’ve got 10 first-team players out, and players playing out of position – that’s not an excuse, just an explanation.

“The top teams tend to be those with settled teams but that’s been very difficult for us.

“In the first half I thought we deserved our lead. Mark Harris keeps finding himself in the areas to get goals – as we knew he would.

“But we didn’t control the game the way we wanted in the second half, and kind of played into their hands.

“It’s frustrating – Reading had just one shot on goal, that’s the same as Barnsley when they won here recently. That’s the way it’s gone in those two games.”

The lack of chances Oxford created will be a worry to Buckingham too.

Reading boss Ruben Selles hailed the impact of Ehibhatiomhan and the other subs as they helped force a draw in what was Reading’s first ever league visit to the Kassam Stadium.

Selles said: “The substitutes had an impact. Kelvin and the boys have been doing great.

“There was a moment where we were low in terms of intensity, aggression and forward playing, and we knew it’s a squad game and the players on the bench would make a difference.

“When they came on, they changed the dynamic of the game. We came here to get the three points, but the performance was there at moments in the game.

“I think a point is fair. I thought in the last five or 10 minutes we could even get a second goal.

“I’m happy with the performance but we came here to get the three points.

“We have been performing well away from home and we’ve been solid on our travels.”

The draw stretched the Royals’ recent run to just one defeat in 10 games, though they remain in the relegation places.

Barnsley head coach Neill Collins said he was “exceptionally proud” of his team after a 1-0 win over play-off rivals Oxford in atrocious conditions at the Kassam Stadium.

The winner came from a Sam Long own goal in the 29th minute when Long and Devante Cole both challenged for a wicked right-wing cross from Adam Phillips.

Oxford almost equalised six minutes from time when Cameron Brannagan’s 20-yard drive smashed against the bar.

Collins said: “I’m exceptionally proud of the team, probably as proud of the team as I’ve been since I’ve been Barnsley manager.

“I’m so proud of the togetherness of the team.

“They were terrible conditions but I thought we handled them well in the second half when the wind was against us. That’s something we haven’t done well at times but we did tonight.

“And apart from the shot that hit the crossbar, I thought we were comfortable, to be honest.

“In the first half we were excellent and in the second half we were very professional.

“It was a well-earned three points.

“It was one of those nights when we needed every member of the squad who started or came on to play their part.

“Yes, it’s nice to beat another team near the top, and Oxford have been in the top six all season.

“But if we’re going to achieve what we want to achieve we’re going to have to beat the top teams along the way.”

Fifth-placed Barnsley are now just four points off leaders Portsmouth with a game in hand in a congested pack at the top of Sky Bet League One.

Oxford boss Des Buckingham called it “a frustrating evening”.

His mood was not helped by losing Long to a head wound at the end of the first half, with the defender having only just returned to the team after nearly three months out injured..

“It was a horrible night for football and the game was decided by fine margins,” he said.

“They got the goal from a set-piece, but we had two very good opportunities in the first half.

“Then we obviously had Cam’s shot against the bar, and also in the second half we twice got into really good positions and just maybe needed better decision-making.

“Sam Long split his head from an elbow – he’s got a deep gash in his head so he’ll maybe be out for a couple of weeks.

“We’ve got some players coming back but we have 19 games to go and we’re after two more forwards to fire us forward for the second half of the season.

“It is disappointing losing to another team near the top but we spoke before the game and said that, whatever the result tonight, there will still be a long way to go, and there’ll be a lot of ups and downs and twists and turns.

“But we have two wonderful games coming up now to try to pick up points, against Bristol Rovers and Portsmouth.”

Derby head coach Paul Warne hailed his team’s 3-2 comeback win at League One promotion rivals Oxford as “magical”.

The U’s led 2-0 after 13 minutes when Cameron Brannagan converted a penalty then hammered in a 25-yard free-kick.

But the Rams fought back brilliantly.

Craig Forsyth gave them a lifeline by turning in a flick-on corner at the far post in stoppage time at the end of the first half.

And two goals in the last nine minutes from substitute Liam Thompson then Eiran Cashin sent Derby’s 1,700 fans into raptures as the Rams stretched their unbeaten run to nine games.

Warne said: “To win in the way we did was pretty magical. To win 3-2 like that was quite exciting!

“I thought we actually played very well in the first half too. Obviously we didn’t start the game well, conceding from a penalty and a free-kick in the first 13 minutes.

“But I thought we still had control of the game in the first half. The goal just before half-time proved a big swing. It changed the team talk, I won’t lie.

“I said to the team at half-time that we didn’t need to rush things, we had ages left to get back into it.

“I’m just really proud of the group. The game-changers came on for us and had a massive effect. We tried to press with a real energy and to win at another team in the play-off places is special.

“The fact that Tommo came on and scored with a brilliant header gave me a lot of pleasure too.

“It showed real character from us. If you want to be successful you have to win in different ways and we found another way to win tonight.

“We were thinking, coming here, about not losing because you don’t want a play-off rival to go six points clear of you – but we also came to win with an aggressive team and line-up.

“It was probably the most hard-earned three points we have had all season. But it was also a thoroughly deserved three points – I don’t think anyone in the ground would deny that.

“And I appreciate our fans sticking with us and really getting behind us even when we were two goals down. It was an exciting night and one we won’t forget.”

Oxford head coach Des Buckingham felt the timing of Forsyth’s goal had a big impact on the game.

He said: “I was very excited by how we started the game, and very frustrated by how we finished the game.

“We started extremely well. But it’s about starting and ending well, and putting it together for 90 minutes.

“We can’t switch off, as a collective, just before half-time like that. There were two minutes of added-on time and it was in the 48th minute, which was also frustrating.

“That goal came from a set-piece and the third goal came from a free-kick. That’s five goals against us in three games that have come from set-pieces. We’re not the biggest side, we know that, but we need to be cuter too.

“Derby are a good side – a big, physical side. But them bringing on five fresh experienced players made a difference. We had to make an enforced change with an injury to Tyler Goodrham, which we weren’t expecting to make.

“And we ended up trying not to lose the game rather than trying to win it.”

Northampton boss Jon Brady hailed an “absolutely fabulous” win for his side after they climbed into the top 10 with a last-gasp 2-1 victory over promotion-chasing Oxford.

Kieron Bowie nodded the Cobblers ahead early in the second half before Cameron Brannagan hit back from the penalty spot, but substitute Tyreece Simpson’s header deep into stoppage time snatched a fifth win in seven games for Brady’s men.

“Absolutely fabulous,” said Brady. “I’m obviously really pleased with the result and the performance.

“I felt we dominated the first half and the stats suggested that. We had more of the ball and then we get the goal to go 1-0 up at the start of the second half.

“We were in total control and so nearly scored another with Marc Leonard’s chance after a sublime move but to give the penalty away was a bit sloppy and a bit silly.

“I thought we lost control after that and it became a basketball match for five or 10 minutes but we told the boys to push up quicker and go forward more and from that moment, once we did that, we got control and finished well.

“We changed shape because we wanted to go for the win and it paid off. The two boys come on up front and both played their part and I’m so pleased for Tyreece to get his goal and score the winner.”

Oxford have slipped down to fifth in League One following the loss, four points from the automatic promotion places.

“I thought we had done enough to get a result,” said U’s boss Des Buckingham. “We created a few chances in the first half and we should have scored at least a couple of goals.

“We go behind at the start of the second half but got ourselves back in it with the penalty, Stan (Mills) did extremely well to win it, and then it’s a kick in the teeth to concede in the last 30 seconds.

“We knew it would be tough and they are going well but you can’t give away so many opportunity for them to get the ball in the box because eventually one will go in.

“I understand the frustration of the supporters at the end of the game because I want to play football that entertains and we haven’t done that in the away games since I’ve been here.

“You can’t play into the hands of the opposition. We want to win every game but I don’t mind if we lose or draw as long as we’re playing our way.

“If that happens, so be it, but to lose to two set-pieces and to play into their hands as we did in the last 10 minutes, it was frustrating.”

Des Buckingham singled out Josh Murphy after League One Oxford saw off last year’s FA Cup giant-killers Grimsby 2-0 at the Kassam Stadium to reach the third round.

Murphy made the first goal – converted by Marcus McGuane – after 11 minutes, with substitute Billy Bodin heading in the second from Cameron Brannagan’s cross 15 minutes from time to give Buckingham his first win in charge.

He said: “The whole team were very good – the one player who maybe really stood out was Murphy on the left-hand side.

“He is one of many in the team who are keen to show me what they can do and I thought he had a wonderful game.”

Buckingham, who swapped 35-degree Mumbai for sub-zero Oxford to get his first shot at management in England, added: “What pleased me most was the professionalism in how we approached the game.

“It was a professional performance from us against a team that’s also desperate to impress because they’ve got a new manager as well.

“There might have been a perception after playing Bolton on Tuesday night that we would take our foot off the gas here but I didn’t see that at all.

“I saw a very well organised and disciplined team.

“It finished 2-0 but I think we could have scored a couple more.”

McGuane followed up to score when Mariners goalkeeper Harvey Cartwright could only parry Murphy’s shot – after the winger had sprinted 60 yards up the left on a break from defence.

It all came from a Grimsby corner that was poorly executed.

And new boss David Artell, who has been in the job for less than a week, blamed himself for the goal.

Artell said: “I blame myself for it because it came from our corner – and we haven’t worked on any set-pieces, which is my fault.”

He added: “When you’ve only had one proper training session and two match-prep sessions in a week it’s very hard to change a lot.

“But I thought we gave a good account of ourselves, we controlled possession better than we did on Tuesday night at MK Dons.

“I’ve seen enough to know that we’ve got a lot of qualities and we’re going to be OK.”

Grimsby never got close to repeating their fairy-tale run of last season when they won at Southampton and made it all the way through to the quarter-finals.

Their best opportunity fell to sub Donovan Wilson who ran in behind the home defence in the second half and brought a good save from James Beadle.

The one disappointment for Oxford was seeing forward Marcus Browne, who had been sidelined for three months with a hamstring injury, have to come off the pitch shortly after going on.

Buckingham said: “Marcus has been out for 14 weeks and has been working extremely hard with his rehabilitation.

“He was cleared to play and we put him on and he was ready to go. He contributed extremely well to the second goal but then just suddenly felt a little bit tight, so rather than risk anything we brought him off.”

Oxford made it three wins on the trot in League One after beating Barnsley 3-1 at Oakwell.

Cameron Brannagan scored an early penalty to put Oxford in front and Jordan Williams’ own goal made it 2-0 just before the hour.

Devante Cole pulled a goal back for Barnsley with 20 minutes left but Tyler Goodrham sealed the points for the improving visitors late on.

Oxford, who started the season with a 2-0 defeat at Cambridge followed by a 5-1 Carabao Cup mauling by Bristol City, came into the game on the back of wins over Carlisle and Derby and they needed just eight minutes to take the lead here.

Marcus Browne was fouled by Mael de Gevigney inside the area and Brannagan slotted home from the spot.

Barnsley went in search of an equaliser but Andy Dallas skewed his shot off-target from a great position and Nicky Cadden fired just over.

Oxford also had their chances and Mark Harris and Stanley Mills both shot straight at Liam Roberts in the Barnsley goal before Adam Phillips was denied by James Beadle at the other end.

Oxford increased their lead 10 minutes after the re-start. Mills made a surging run down the right, reached the byline and sent over a low cross which Williams attempted to clear but succeeded only in turning the ball into his own net.

Barnsley were given a lifeline in the 70th minute when Cole pulled a goal back with a header from a Cadden corner but Goodrham ensured it would be Oxford celebrating the win after being set up by Gatlin O’Donkor.

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