Poor United limp out of FA Cup at early stage

U’s keeper Simon Eastwood, pictured here against MK Dons earlier in the season, was not in his best form in the FA Cup

Oxford United endured a torrid evening as they limped out of the FA Cup at the first round stage for the first time in six years on Friday night.

The U’s, who have enjoyed success against Premier League and Championship sides in the competition over the last couple of seasons, ran out of FA Cup magic as Port Vale made light of their lowly League Two position to ease to a 2-0 win.

Neil Aspin’s team are 22nd in the fourth tier but, inspired by a run of three wins from their past four league games, put in a dominant performance.

Headers from Gavin Gunning and Tom Pope in either half did the damage for the Valiants, who made their seventh goalkeeping change of the campaign.

A lethargic United, who reached the fifth round last season, failed to register a shot on target.

The visitors had most of the ball and the first chance of the evening, but there was no disguising a dreadful night in front of nearly 400 travelling U’s fans.

Vale took the lead thanks to a costly mistake from Oxford keeper Simon Eastwood.

Trying to get his side on the move quickly, he bowled the ball straight to James Gibbons who surged forward and clipped a ball into the box for Gunning to nod home.

United’s task became twice as hard early in the second half when a David Worrall cross found Pope who, doing what Pope does best, powered an unmarked header past the helpless Eastwood from six yards out.

The home side should have added more and United can now focus on the league with one less distraction.

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