In the end it wasn't much of a contest. Oxford didn't play badly – though perhaps not quite as well as we are capable of – but were beaten by a team that was superior in every department.
Oxford certainly started the brighter of the two teams and created the early chances. The best of these seemed to bounce around the Leeds box and could have ended up anywhere. In the end, the hosts were let off the hook as the ball bounced into the goalkeeper's grateful arms.
The hosts had started nervously but began to grow into the game after the first 15-20 minutes. On-loan youngster Sean McGinty suffered a particularly torrid evening on his debut at left back – with regular left-back Tony Capaldi moving into midfield to fill in for the injured Lee Cox. McGinty's evening would probably have been made far worse if the locals – who regularly piped up with chants of 'Stand up if you hate Man U' – knew where he was on loan from! Adam Chapman was frequently pulled out of position to cover McGinty, earning himself a booking and cheers from the travelling support after felling the odious El Hadji Diouf.
Leeds took the lead midway through the half when Rodolph Austin unleashed a powerful strike from the edge of the area, which stung Clarke's hands en route to the net. If I was a Leeds supporter I would probably be raving about the finish, but from an Oxford perspective Austin should never have been given so much space and Clarke could maybe have saved it.
As soon as Leeds had the goal advantage they took the match by the scruff of the neck and Oxford were barely given a sniff. They doubled their lead soon after, when Potter was dispossessed (with more than a hint of a foul about the challenge) in the middle of the park. Sam Byram skipped through the Oxford defence and then lobbed a helpless Clarke with an exquisite finish to put Leeds two goals to the good. It could have been three before the break when Diouf got the wrong side of the defence, but Clarke did well to block the shot and keep the deficit to two at half time.
Leeds continued to control the game after the break and had a penalty appeal turned down after a goalmouth scramble. Austin came close to adding his second when he unleashed a another ferocious shot from a good 25 yards, which hit the bar. The inevitable third goal came when an unmarked Tom Lees rose to meet a cross from the right wing and any remote chance of a comeback was well and truly over.
The Oxford support, who had become a bit subdued since falling behind in the first half, came alive midway through the second half when it became clear that the match was over as a contest and made themselves heard even over the cheers for the third goal.
Tyrone Marsh made his first senior appearance when he was introduced for the final ten minutes and his youthful enthusiasm and energy were a breath of fresh air as he chased every ball that came within 20 feet of him. If he had been given more time on the field he might even have bagged his first goal, but in the dying stages of the game, even when United did get forward it was done half-heartedly and with half an eye on the long coach trip home.
There are still plenty of positives to take from the match. We passed the ball around okay at times and didn't disgrace ourselves, even though we failed to provide much resistance to the hosts. We can take several lessons from the way Leeds handled the game – from their superior passing and control, and the calm manner in which they saw out the game. If we can take those lessons and apply them to our league campaign, it won't have been a wasted exercise at all.