Oxford United vs Swansea City match report: Kemar Roofe the hero as Premier League Swans knocked out by minnows

Oxford United 3 Swansea City 2

Kevin Garside
Kassam Stadium
Sunday 10 January 2016 15:13
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Oxford players celebrate after the final whistle
Oxford players celebrate after the final whistle

It has become the theme of this season: English talent emerging from the lower echelons to prove what might be were the Premier League clubs that have first dibs on the nation’s talent better able to see their development through.

Kemal Roofe spent four seasons at The Hawthorns without making one first-team appearance for West Bromwich Albion. His fourth loan move of that period took him to the Kassam Stadium last season, a move which became permanent this term with thrilling results.

Two goals of Premier League quality, the first curled in from the left after beating his man, the second a neat finish with only the keeper to beat, gave his team that most sought after quality: a lethal blade in the final third. They took his tally to 14 in all competitions and sealed the keynote result of the FA Cup’s third round.

And so Roofe follows Jamie Vardy, who blew into the big time at Leicester City via non-league Fleetwood, and Tottenham’s Dele Alli, who honed his craft in more than 80 games for Milton Keynes in the third tier of the English game, into the football spotlight.

In the only giant-killing of the weekend Oxford demonstrated the quality that sees them third in the Second Division, ideally placed to chase those promotion dreams. And at the heart of the piece a fantastic prospect who knows where the goal is.

A banner behind the goal filled by Roofe in the second half of a rip-roaring tie read: “A time For Heroes”. Bang on cue Oxford sent forth 11 men worthy of the proclamation. Swansea, in that patronising way elite clubs do, made 10 changes, imagining they would retain enough quality to get the job done.

Kemar Roofe scores for Oxford

They took the lead in the 23rd minute with a beauty from Jefferson Montero, a goal that broke an Oxford siege, and in the final 20 minutes, when frantically chasing the game, they scored a second through Bafétimbi Gomes, but the scoreline flattered the Premier League visitors.

Behind Roofe, the former Everton youngster John Lundstram eclipsed his English counterpart Jonjo Shelvey in the centre of the park with a performance redolent of the great Steven Gerrard. The overambitious pass, most commonly to the flying full-back George Baldock, was his only blot. In all else he was measured, committed and used the ball intelligently.

Shelvey could learn a thing or two from a player like that. When he wasn’t sauntering through the game as if he were too good for this company, he was busy seeking the Hollywood option. As early as the eighth minute Shelvey ignored the run down the left of Franck Tabanou in favour of a speculative attempt from distance. And thus it continued to the benefit of no one.

Oxford fans celebrate the victory against Swansea

There was none of that from Oxford, who fashioned their first opening after 18 minutes when Ryan Taylor forced a one-handed save from Kristoffer Nordfeldt. Again Roofe was involved, setting Chris McGuire free down the left to whip in a smart cross.

If they were unfortunate to fall behind there was, perhaps, an element of luck about the penalty awarded by referee Kevin Friend when Alexander MacDonald went down in the box. None of that was a concern for Liam Sercombe, however, who converted emphatically to ensure parity at the break.

Swansea’s interim manager, Alan Curtis, defended his wholesale changes on the grounds of a packed calendar, with Swansea taking on Sunderland on Wednesday, and in terms of the experience and quality of his squad. He was entitled to a better response.

Oxford were quickly into their stride on the resumption, Baldock once again demonstrating the art of the modern full-back. This kid has pace and touch and uses it to devastating effect. On this occasion Lundstram blazed over. No matter. Roofe made up for the profligacy with a fine individual goal, cutting in from the left to curl a sumptuous right-footer past Nordfeldt into the bottom corner.

If that was about audacity and vision, his equally impressive second 10 minutes later was all about composure. Taking a pass centrally from Chris Maguire, Roofe wriggled free of the challenge and bore down on goal. The noise in the Kassam was off the scale but he heard only the ice-cold timbre of his inner voice, distilling the moment into a touch, a stride and then the strike.

Nordfeldt managed to get a body part on it, sending the ball arching into the air, but not enough to divert it over the bar. The sight of the rippling net sent Roofe peeling off to his right in celebration.

Gomes side-footed neatly home with 25 minutes to go to give Swansea notional hope, but in truth they had lost this fight before they stepped on to the pitch. In programme notes the Oxford chairman, Darryl Eales, asked if his team could do a Swansea. Well they did one yesterday good and proper. Eales was, of course, talking of Oxford’s ability to climb through the divisions as Swansea did to consolidate a place in the Premier League.

It was just 13 years ago that Swansea flirted with relegation to the Conference, before Huw Jenkins instituted systemic change with miraculous results. Now, sitting just one place above the drop zone, Swansea are in danger of unravelling. Complacency cost them their chance here, the FA Cup not a big enough pot for them, it would seem.

Meanwhile, Oxford dream of a return to their own heady days of the Eighties, when they won the League Cup and spent three years in the top flight just 23 years after entering the Football League.

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