Torquay United 1 (Downes 58) Oxford United 3 (Constable 50, Batt pen 54, Heslop 90+4) (From Herald Series)
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Torquay United 1 (Downes 58) Oxford United 3 (Constable 50, Batt pen 54, Heslop 90+4)
OXFORD United bounced back from their heavy midweek defeat to beat struggling Torquay United.
The visitors wasted three superb chances before the break, but made amends with two quick goals early in the second half.
James Constable, who had been guilty of two misses, took advantage of another opening to make it 1-0, before Damian Batt scored from the penalty spot.
Aaron Downes pulled a goal back for the hosts, but United held on and added a flourish to the score when substitute Simon Heslop scored with the final kick of the game.
There were four changes to United's XI in the wake of Tuesday's 4-0 defeat to Rotherham United.
Luke O'Brien replaced Liam Davis (illness), while a tight hamstring saw Deane Smalley drop to the bench, replaced by Constable.
Scott Davies came in for his first start and Tony Capaldi returned, with Heslop and Michael Duberry missing out as the U's reverted back to a 4-4-2 system.
That line-up lasted just eight minutes, before the visitors were forced into a change.
Capaldi went down unchallenged with what looked like a back injury, so Josh Parker was given an early chance to make an impact.
United had the best opening of an underwhelming first half hour, when Michael Raynes nodded wide from a Davies corner on 11 minutes.
The game was beginning to disintegrate into a scrappy affair, before it suddenly caught light in the final 15 minutes of the half.
United created three superb chances in the space of eight minutes, but crucially could not take any of them.
The first came from an aerial ball from Jake Wright which Brain Saah misjudged. Alfie Potter held off Downes, allowing Constable to burst through on goal.
The striker's shot was firm, but too close to Gulls goalkeeper Michael Poke, who parried.
The front two combined again shortly afterwards.
Potter did well to send Constable away and although he had more time than in his first opportunity the finish was less convincing, blasted straight at a relieved Poke.
A minute later the roles were reversed to send Potter away.
It was a similar chance to the one he took so well at Gillingham last month, but this time when the winger drew the goalkeeper he made a mess of his shot, which ended up near the corner flag.
United should have been out of sight, but they needed a smart save from Luke McCormick to keep them on level terms at the break.
On the eve of half-time the visitors' defence was scythed open by a one-two between Ryan Jarvis and Rene Howe, but the former's shot was well kept out by the goalkeeper.
The visitors regrouped at the interval and seized control of the game after the restart.
Constable shrugged off the memory of the earlier misses to open the scoring five minutes into the second half.
A long ball from O'Brien was not dealt with by Downes and the striker raced through, rounding Poke to slot into an empty net.
Constable was heavily involved in United's second goal.
He did not give up on a lost cause and robbed a dawdling Downes, who then pulled Constable back in the box.
Batt assumed penalty duties and buried the ball into the corner from 12 yards to put the U's in control.
But the two-goal cushion lasted just four minutes, as Torquay hit back.
Joss Labadie's free-kick was tipped over by McCormick and from the resulting corner Downes steered a header into the far corner.
The goal rush nearly continued as Torquay went in search of a quick equaliser. A ball across the penalty area fell invitingly to Lee Mansell, whose shot was well blocked by Batt.
Gradually the visitors regained their composure at the back and came back into the game.
Smalley came off the bench and was quickly involved in a move which saw Andy Whing slip a pass for Constable to shave the post with a left-footed shot.
A poor Gulls back four allowed further chances to make it 3-1 in the final ten minutes.
Parker fired narrowly over after Raynes had a shot blocked at a corner, while Davies missed the target from long range.
Torquay pushed forward late in and on 88 minutes they had a clear opportunity.
Batt got caught under a cross to give Howe an opening at the back post, but his shot was straight at McCormick.
There was still time for some nervous moments to survive before a fantastic finale, when Heslop lashed a shot in with the final kick of the game.
Oxford Utd: McCormick, Batt, Raynes, Wright, O'Brien, Davies (Heslop 90), Whing, Capaldi (Parker 8), Rigg (Smalley 74), Potter, Constable.
Unused subs: Crocombe, Worley, Craddock, Duberry.
Torquay Utd: Poke, Oastler, Downes, Saah, Nicholson, Jarvis (Macklin 65), Mansell, Labadie (Stevens 90), Bodin, Howe, Benyon.
Unused subs: Rice, Lathrope, MacDonald, Craig, Cruise.
Referee: Stephen Martin.
Attendance: 2,504 (379 visitors).