Oxford United Stars . . . . . .4
Dungiven Celtic . . . . . . . . .. . 1
SWILLY Stadium hosted the battle of the top two in the N. Ireland Intermediate League with both teams defending undefeated records and it was Oxford who deservedly took top honours.
Dungiven have been in great form recently notably defeating Strabane Athletic in Strabane before netting seven goals against lowly Mountjoy.
And the Co. Derry side stunned their hosts on Saturday when breaking the deadlock in bizarre fashion.
Oxford’s reluctance to clear the ball saw goalkeeper, McNeill, left red faced with just one minute on the clock when his clearance dropped into the path of Farren who rounded the stranded goalkeeper before tapping into the empty net.
However, within 14 minutes on the clock, Oxford were level when Crossan was played in and he cut inside before executing a neat finish beyond McElhinney in the Dungiven goal.
Boosted by the equaliser, Oxford then moved into the driving seat when Hargan displayed his pace running in behind the Dungiven defence before unleashing a shot which brought out the best in McElhinney who turned it behind.
From the resulting corner Dungiven could only force the ball to the edge of the penalty area where Crossan stepped in to guide a left footed shot low beyond the reach of McElhinney.
After the break, Dungiven had their hands full dealing with Hargan, Crossan and Lee Roddy and on 72 minutes McGuigan’s frustrations boiled over when Lee Roddy nutmegged the central defender before he was hauled to earth giving the referee little choice but to wave the red card and dismiss the player.
Oxford then sealed the victory in the 76th minute. Hargan received the ball 40 yards from goal before showing great vision and execution slipping Crossan on the left side, the forward on a hat-trick showed great composure rounding McElhinney to give his side all three points.
Oxford added a fourth in the final minute when Anderson fed Eoin McNeill wide on the right, his first time cross rolled across the six yard box and Hargan swivelled as he dinked his shot over the keeper and into far top corner of the net much to the delight of his team-mates.
Despite his side leading the Intermediate League table, Oxford United Stars boss, Paul Roddy, refused to get carried away afterwards.
“We deserve to be where we are based on the evidence of our last four games. We’ve been really impressive but the boys won’t be allowed to rest on past performances,” he said.
However, with other challengers boasting games in hand and capable of overtaking his side, Roddy refused to take anything for granted.
“Putting another three points on the board is more valuable than having a game in hand. But we can only do our job and we’ll continue to do that,” he added.
And the Oxford manager has made no apologies for again singling out Emmet Hargan for special praise: “Emmet Hargan has been praised every week for his performances, but that praise is justified.
“He’s 16-years-old and he has the courage to step-up and successfully compete agianst more experienced players. He continues to do that week in week out and he deserves to be praised.”
OXFORD UNITED STARS - S. McNeill, McClafferty (E. McNeill, 88), Loughrey, K. Roddy, Deehan; Devine, Cleere, Villa (J. McLaughlin, 82), Crossan (Anderson, 76); L. Roddy, Hargan.
DUNGIVEN CELTIC - McElhinney; McNicholl, Butcher, McGuigan, McCloskey; Boyle, O’Kane, Moore (Quigg 68), C McLaughlin (Brolly 82); Farren, Mullan.
REFEREE - Mr. Mark Taylor (Derry).