The win on Saturday keeps Albion level on points with Shrewsbury Town at the top and with home defeats for fellow promotion chasers Wycombe Wanderers and Southend United helping to cement the Brewers position in the race for promotion. Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink thinks it was the best game the Brewers have played.
“I have just said to the players that this is the best game we have played.
“Organised wise we looked solid and very disciplined and it was a very professional win.
“First half, Adam McGurk was our main man, we looked very sharp he won all the second balls and held the ball up causing them a lot of problems.
“A good follow though like a good striker does for Adam’s goal and that gave us a little lift.
“Second half I must say we came out very strong and we looked to score the second but it didn’t come but we remained very professional and we stayed in the game and stayed organised which was very important.”
The Brewers defence has been solid since Hasselbaink took over back in November, conceding only 4 goals in the New Year. The Brewers boss puts this down to the team being a unit.
“The defensive side is everybody.
“From the front, the midfielders and the defenders, everybody was a unit and you need a unit to get through those matches.”
A lot of the early play was somewhat scratchy and not very productive but Albion burst into life as the clock ticked past fourteen minutes. A hopeful ball to the edge of the box was met by the head of Lucas Akins. Damien McCrory was quick to dash to the edge of the area to latch onto the loose ball, driving a low shot that was well blocked by Ryan Clarke in the Oxford goal. What the U's keeper could not prevent was the ball looping up in front of goal for Adam McGURK to thump home a header from six yards. After the early goal, Albion were in control of the match.
“We had a few good moments with Ivan (Calero) doing one-twos going forward but then we were overplaying a little bit.” Said Hasselbaink.
“I would like to see more shots but that time is still to come and improvements will be made which the boys are working hard for.
“We controlled the game in the first half and in the second half we started really well.
“You are always going to have moments where you will suffer and we did that but we stayed disciplined and organised which is a good sign.”
John McLaughlin didn’t have one save to make, with Oxford only registering a hand-full of shots off target. Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink was pleased that his keeper didn’t have anything to do and said it means the team are working hard.
“It pleases me more when my keeper doesn’t have a lot to do, it means that the team is working very hard and they are concentrated and I must say against Oxford, we needed that.”
After soaking up some intense Oxford pressure Albion eased any final nerves with a second on 89 minutes. El Khayati sold his marker a complete dummy to turn and open up a chance to pick out AKINS in the middle. It looked like he had lost the chance when he pulled the ball out to his left hand side but a calm sidefoot finish squeezed inside the post and the outstretched hand of Clarke who had no chance ending a goal drought for the popular forward stretching back to the beginning of October.
Hasselbaink told Brewers Player “We know that Nasser has got that sort of quality especially when he is facing the goal.”
“He can bring other people in and that’s what he did before Lucas (Akins) took the goal really well.”
This was Akins’ first goal since 3rd October 2014 when the Brewers were defeated 3-1 at home to Cambridge United. The Brewers boss tells us that Akins has been working hard in training and he has so much more about him.
“Lucas has been working very hard and has so much more about him.
“He just has to believe in himself. He was very important for us against Oxford but he is an important player in the squad.
“He has the quality to get you up the pitch from one second to another and sometimes that is what you need to give your defence a breather.”
There was cause for concern halfway through the second period when McGurk pulled up rather abruptly chasing the ball and clutching at his hamstring. The influetial frontman tried to run it off but after a couple of minutes the decision was taken to bring him off to prevent exacerbating the injury and Tom Naylor was introduced to bolster the midfield and Calero pushing further into attack alongside Beavon.
“Adam had cramp otherwise I would never have taken him off because he played every so well.
“He had cramp so we had to take him off just to protect him because we need him.”
Watch the full interview here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ln9IqWlrvw