Hartlepool Utd 1 (James 48) Oxford Utd 3 (Williams 5, Smalley 66, Hall pen 90) (From Witney Gazette)
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Hartlepool Utd 1 (James 48) Oxford Utd 3 (Williams 5, Smalley 66, Hall pen 90)
A DEPLETED Oxford United dug deep to extend their superb away record with victory at Hartlepool United.
A classy finish from Ryan Williams put the under-strength visitors in front early on, but Luke James levelled just after half-time.
The game was in the balance before Deane Smalley restored the visitors' advantage with his fourth goal of the season.
Hartlepool pushed for another equaliser, but substitute Scott Davies won a 90th-minute penalty which Asa Hall converted to secure a fourth away win in five games this season.
The hosts finished with ten men, as Steve Howard was dismissed for a tackle on Davies late on.
United's team sheet showed two enforced changes from the side which started the 1-0 defeat to Chesterfield a week earlier.
Williams and Sean Rigg came in on the flanks to replace the suspended Andy Whing and Dave Kitson, while James Constable was a surprising inclusion on the bench after recovering well from a foot injury.
It was a first Sky Bet League Two start for Williams, but the on-loan winger took less than five minutes to justify his inclusion.
A long throw from David Hunt ended up falling to Michael Raynes on the edge of the area.
The centre back executed a smart Cruyff turn and the ball fell to Williams, who coolly stroked a left-footed shot into the corner of the net.
It was a classy finish and began a very solid first half display from the visitors.
Hartlepool had plenty of the ball in the opening 45 minutes, but aside from a Simon Walton shot which deflected wide in the seventh minute they looked blunt up front.
The U's worked hard to press them and, unlike against Chesterfield last week, it was very effective.
Johnny Mullins and Raynes were commanding in the air and the home fans quickly grew restless.
At the other end Williams had the beating of left back Neil Austin, but the visitors could not take advantage.
Their best chance for a second goal before the break came via a Smalley flick on 28 minutes. It released Alfie Potter, but the forward could not get the ball under control and his shot was blocked.
Hartlepool boss Colin Cooper did not wait until the interval to start making changes. On 38 minutes Jonathan Franks, who had a loan spell at Oxford two seasons ago, was replaced by James Poole.
Not for the first time this season the interval did the U's no favours and they conceded early in the second half.
Tom Newey's headed clearance was quickly returned into the area and when the ball was knocked down James was on hand to slam in a finish past Ryan Clarke.
Suddenly revitalised, the hosts went on to enjoy a good spell as the U's battled to stay on level terms.
But after surviving some nervous moments, they hit back to retake the lead.
Rigg picked the ball up in the centre circle, skipped away from two challenges and played in Potter. He got into the box and checked back on to his right foot, squaring for Smalley to shoot low into the net.
Constable was soon introduced as Pools pushed for an equaliser.
James was again their main threat and Clarke made a smart save to keep out the teenager from Jack Compton's cross.
Josh Ruffels and Scott Davies also came off the bench, as the U's looked to protect their lead.
The fresh legs proved crucial as Davies went on to help make the game safe.
A ball over the top saw Christian Burgess, under pressure from Potter, play a back pass, but Davies gambled and got there before the goalkeeper.
Scott Flinders brought him down and Hall dispatched the penalty to make it 3-1.
There was still time for Howard to receive a straight red card and Danny Rose to survive strong appeals for a penalty in a breathless finish.
Oxford Utd: Clarke, Hunt, Raynes, Mullins, Newey, Williams (Constable 70), Hall, Rose, Rigg (Ruffels 81) Potter, Smalley (Davies 85).
Unused subs: Jalal, Bevans, Marsh, O'Dowda.
Hartlepool Utd: Flinders, Dolan, Baldwin, Burgess, Austin (Howard 84), Franks (Poole 38), Walton (Sweeney 90), Duckworth, Compton, James, Monkhouse.
Unused subs: Rafferty, Collins, Holden, Rodney.
Referee: Jeremy Simpson (Lancashire).
Attendance: 3,799 (348 visitors).
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