Chelsea. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2
CUP victories need only be accepted with thanks; not embroidered with style. Winning is all and Chelsea will savour their second quarter-final appearance in three seasons without worrying about the means that got them there.
With two goals sweetly struck in the space of eight minutes before the half-hour, by Joey Beauchamp and Craig Burley, Chelsea revived their Wembley prospects, which were looking forlorn when Oxford - just as they had in the last round against Leeds - came fastest out of the blocks to exploit the visitors' discomfort in defending up the slope.
The First Division strugglers finished strongly as well when a penalty and a straightforward heading opportunity signposted their way to a replay. But in between they failed to sustain both the quality of their forward momentum and their examination of a defence that struggles to bear close scrutiny.
The missed penalty was another unwanted dividend from the deal that took the Oxford skipper, Jim Magilton, to Southampton within 48 hours of scoring the goal that put out Leeds in extra time at Elland Road. At the start of the season Magilton had a faultless record from the spot, with 17 hits from 17 attempts for club and Northern Ireland.
Into his shoes, following Gavin Peacock's inexplicable fist-away at a corner, stepped Mike Ford, also his successor as captain. An otherwise classy performance at the back was spoiled as Ford's attempt struck the bar.
Reprieve No 2 came when Chris Allen dispatched a cross of rare
accuracy and penetration towards John Byrne loitering at the far post, but the man with the eye for the main Cup chance sent his header disappointingly wide. 'The story of our season,' the beaten manager, Denis Smith, complained of
Oxford's missed chances.
His feelings then were matched earlier on, when Alex Dyer, picked out by Les Robinson at the climax of a right-wing raid, met the centre with a purposeful header. Although the ball flew straight at Dmitri Kharin, it still required sharp reflexes to keep it out.
Even though the portents are encouraging, and Dennis Wise's return to fitness will be followed soon by Glenn Hoddle, it remains hard to see Wembley shining a light for Chelsea this year. They also struck the woodwork on two occasions, yet were unconvincing in their attempt to show they are a good side having an unlucky run in the league rather than a poor one making the most of their fortune in the Cup.
'It was not a classic game, but how many times does that happen in the Cup?' Hoddle said afterwards. 'As Leeds discovered, this is not an easy ground to win at.'
Goals: Beauchamp (4) 1-0; Spencer (22) 1-1; Burley (30) 1-2.
Oxford United (4-5-1): Whitehead; Robinson (Smart, 15), Elliott, M Ford, Rogan (Cusack, 38); Beauchamp, R Ford, Lewis, Dyer, Allen; Byrne. Substitute not used: Kee (gk).
Chelsea (4-4-2): Kharin; Clarke, Johnsen, Kjeldbjerg, Myers; Burley (Hopkin, 90), Newton, Peacock, Wise; Stein, Spencer. Substitutes not used: Hoddle, Hitchcock (gk).
Referee: A B Wilkie (Chester-le-Street).