THE wait to play Crewe Alexandra was not worth it for Oxford United as a disjointed home side were comfortably beaten at the Kassam Stadium.

Not for the first time this season they conceded a soft opening goal, Mikael Mandron claiming it on 28 minutes after some poor defending.

Karl Robinson will have been happy to get his side in at half-time only 1-0 down after they were comprehensively outplayed in the fixture, twice postponed last month due to coronavirus.

United had a better spell after the break without testing Crewe goalkeeper Will Jaaskelainen.

And the visitors found an extra gear in the closing stages against ten men, substitute Sam Winnall being forced off with a knock after they had made all three changes.

Owen Dale doubled the lead in stoppage time and Charlie Kirk could have rubbed salt in the wounds as United disintegrated to stay firmly in Sky Bet League One’s bottom four.

After a fortnight without a league game to iron out a few issues, United had arguably their strongest squad of the season available.

But their optimism steadily drained away in an opening 45 minutes where they were second best all over the pitch.

Crewe arrived buoyed by their win over leaders Peterborough United on Saturday and did not take long to make themselves feel at home.

They looked after the ball far better than the U’s, who were repeatedly pressed into mistakes which saw them give up possession cheaply.

It took time for that control of the game to threaten Simon Eastwood’s goal, but midway through the half Tom Lowery robbed Alex Gorrin and fired just wide from 25 yards.

Crewe’s left-sided combination of Harry Pickering and Charlie Kirk have been getting rave reviews in recent weeks and they lived up to their billing with some slick interplay.

The pair were helped by some passive defending from United, who gave them time and space.

It proved costly on 28 minutes, when Crewe opened the scoring as the hosts stood off Pickering and Kirk around the penalty area.

Sean Clare appeared to have won the ball but then hesitated, before Oli Finney got in a low cross which ricocheted to wrong-foot Eastwood.

Mandron took the congratulations after the ball trickled in at the near post.

The same combination should have doubled the tally eight minutes later.

Elliott Moore lost the ball in his own half, allowing Finney to slide a pass to Mandron. The French striker had only Eastwood to beat, but blazed off target.

Kirk shot wide late in the half, leaving United grateful they went in at the break only one goal adrift.

The total of the hosts’ attacking threat in the first half was a tame looping header over from Matty Taylor.

They continued to lack composure on the ball after the interval and it was a surprise it took until the 57th minute for Robinson to turn to his bench.

Sam Winnall and Jordan Obita came on to give the home side a much-needed lift.

Within seconds Winnall had their first attempt on target of the night, but he was too far out to test Will Jaaskelainen despite making decent contact on the header.

United will have been disappointed they did not stretch the Crewe goalkeeper as they went on to push the visitors backwards for a 20-minute spell.

Several set pieces came and went without carving out a chance, until Obita’s cross found Winnall 14 minutes from time. The striker was well-placed, but mis-timed his jump and the ball looped tamely over.

Crewe’s flowing football in the first half was rarely seen after the break as they looked to protect the lead.

But Eastwood made a brilliant save to deny Omar Beckles’ thumping header at a corner, with James Henry surviving a handball shout when he blocked Mandron’s follow-up on the line.

United finished the game with ten men when Winnall picked up a knock after United had made their substitutions.

And the lack of a striker was costly when Clare got into the box and fizzed an inviting ball across the six-yard box, with no-one in yellow attacking it.

And Dale made the points safe in stoppage time with a composed finish.

Oxford Utd (4-2-3-1): Eastwood, Clare, Moore, Long, Ruffels, Gorrin, Forde (McGuane 80), Henry, Sykes (Obita 57), Shodipo, Taylor (Winnall 57).

Unused subs: Stevens, Mousinho, Kelly, McGuane, Agyei.

Booked: Shodipo, Clare, Gorrin.

Crewe Alex (4-3-3): Jaaskelainen, Ng, Beckles, Offord, Pickering, Lowery (Murphy 62), Wintle, Finney (Ainley 62), Powell (Dale 75), Mandron, Kirk.

Unused subs: Richards, Zanzala, Lancashire, Johnson.

Booked: Dale.

Referee: Will Finnie (Bedfordshire).