Des Buckingham was hungry for more goals despite efforts from Ciaron Brown and Josh Murphy earning Oxford a 2-0 win at Port Vale that moved them into the play-offs.

Brown’s 16th-minute strike lashed the U’s into the lead, before Murphy’s cross-shot nestled in the far corner to settle the scoring four minutes into the second half.

Billy Bodin had an early effort swept off the line and the visitors had two penalty shouts waved away, as they dominated proceedings throughout.

Oxford had chances late on to add gloss to the scoreline – Will Goodwin and Murphy fluffing their lines with the goal gaping. Baylee Dipepa came closest to a late consolation for Vale, firing into a crowd of bodies.

Speaking to BBC Radio Oxford, visiting boss Buckingham said: “Another three points to back up Saturday. We asked for a reaction but not an overreaction.

“We controlled the game for most of the game and it was an excellent performance and a fully deserved three points.

“If we’re being critical, we should score more. We’ve done enough to come away with the win. That’s the important thing.

“We changed the formation. We wanted to get at these and attack them. We needed to react from Tuesday’s defeat to Bolton. Game by game we’re seeing how important every game will be. We spoke about going on our own run of form. Six points out of the last nine is done now. All the players shone today.

“It’s important we got another three points and back in the play-off spots. We now have a 12-day international break to get ready for another couple of games and see how many points we can get from that.”

Speaking to BBC Radio Stoke, Port Vale boss Darren Moore said: “Two set-plays, two goals to concede which were very disappointing. That’s the most frustrating aspect of it. I thought we started the game really well.

“We had Oxford on the back foot but after quarter of an hour, the first goal seemed to rock us a bit. That gave them confidence and the ability to start stringing passes together. I needed to make a double substitution and that seemed to stem the tide a bit.

“The second goal gave us a mountain to climb. We huffed and puffed after that. We had a couple of half-chances but nothing fell to us in the box.

“You don’t want to lose games. I want to be open. I’m disappointed, the boys are disappointed. But I have to say to them, while the maths are still there, we have to keep going. We need to get ourselves up, dust ourselves down and be prepared for a real tough game at Burton next week.”

Oxford brushed aside Port Vale with a comfortable 2-0 victory at Vale Park.

Ciaron Brown lashed home and Josh Murphy whipped a left-footed effort past Connor Ripley as the U’s dominated throughout.

Murphy showed early glimpses of his quality down the left before playing in Billy Bodin. Vale’s Dan Jones on the line swept the effort clear.

After 16 minutes, Brown notched the visitors in front. The defender latched on to a loose ball and fired home from the edge of the six-yard box.

With Vale pinned in their own half, Ripley got two hands to Elliott Moore’s flick midway through the first half.

After 49 minutes, Murphy doubled Oxford’s advantage. He skipped inside on to his left foot and his cross-shot evaded everyone and nestled in the corner.

Owen Dale zipped an effort wide, and Murphy was sluggish in getting a shot away, as Oxford sought a third.

Baylee Dipepa was denied a consolation for the hosts when he turned a strike into a crowd of Oxford shirts.

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.

New Oxford boss Des Buckingham is still awaiting his first League One victory after four matches following a 1-1 draw at local rivals Reading.

Most of the first-half action was squeezed into a four-minute spell shortly before the interval, with Oxford going in front from a Ciaron Brown header and Sam Smith soon levelling for the hosts.

The second period proved high on endeavour yet low on quality, with neither team able to find a winner.

In the first league meeting between the clubs since April 2001, an even and quiet opening gave way to a dramatic end to the half.

Full-back Brown nodded play-off chasers Oxford in front from a Stanley Mills cross in the 39th minute, much to the delight of their near-3,000 travelling fans.

But Reading were back level in the 43rd minute, former United loanee Smith latching on to a fine Lewis Wing pass to coolly beat keeper James Beadle.

Oxford dominated most of the second period but without unduly troubling the home defence or keeper David Button, though Josh Murphy drilled narrowly wide in stoppage time.

Reading offered little going forward, apart from weak efforts from Femi Azeez and Charlie Savage that were saved by Beadle, and the game petered out into a tame draw.

Michael O’Neill is bracing himself for another challenging international window as Northern Ireland’s bruising Euro 2024 qualifying campaign comes to an end this month.

Any hope of reaching next summer’s tournament was virtually extinguished as long ago as June, and with only two wins – both against San Marino – and six defeats in Group H, Northern Ireland would have been forgiven for wanting to fast forward to the end of a campaign ruined by an ongoing injury crisis.

But two games remain and with a trip to Finland, the pot two team in last October’s draw, to come before top seeds Denmark visit Windsor Park on October 20, they are two of the hardest on paper.

O’Neill on Wednesday welcomed back Ciaron Brown and Jordan Jones into his squad but the 26-strong group was another one largely dictated by who is and who is not available due to injury, and the headwinds remain firmly against Northern Ireland.

Finland blew their chance to qualify with back-to-back defeats to Slovenia and Kazakhstan last month, but Denmark are level on points with Slovenia at the top of the standings, looking to finish the job off.

“They will be difficult games but all the games have been difficult,” O’Neill told the PA news agency.

“When I look at the team and I take the results out of it and look at where we are, how we are in possession and a number of other areas, there’s not a lot of difference between all the teams in the group bar Denmark who have been the most dominant.

“We have to look at the positives. We’re not that far behind these teams but we’ve come out on the wrong side of narrow scorelines. We have to learn from that.

“We have been more dominant in possession than some of my previous teams but we’ve not carried the same threat, and obviously we’ve gone behind in games so we’ve not had the opportunity to defend a lead and I think that’s when you’ve seen the best of Northern Ireland, in that situation.”

Although Brown and Jones return, Conor Bradley, Ali McCann and Shayne Lavery all remain unavailable, as do the senior players – Steven Davis, Stuart Dallas, Corry Evans and Shane Ferguson – who have missed the entire campaign.

“It’s a blow not to have young Conor back and to have Ali McCann and Shayne Lavery still out as well,” O’Neill said.

“We’re trying to pick a consistent squad and with the injuries there are still up to seven or eight players who could be involved that aren’t.

“It’s not like there’s a number of players on the periphery we could select ahead of those we have selected. The lads we’ve picked are the ones playing more regular football at their clubs and who merit their place at this moment in time.

“We’re trying to grow a team, to develop a team and we have to continue to do that. With the older players we don’t know what involvement they will have going forward, that’s a decision they have to make.

“The backbone of the squad is very, very young and we have to get as much international experience into them as possible and hopefully that experience is as positive as possible as well.”

Daniel Ballard is fit again after a calf injury, while Shea Charles retains his place in the group although the Southampton player will miss the trip to Helsinki through suspension, having been sent off in last month’s 1-0 home defeat to Slovenia.

Eighteen-year-old striker Callum Marshall is in the squad again after some excellent form for West Ham Under-21s, and will hope for another chance after being denied a debut goal away to Denmark in June when his late equaliser was disallowed.

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