OXFORD United put their midweek thrashing behind them with a controlled victory at Port Vale.

Ciaron Brown gave United the lead when he smashed in from a corner, for his fifth goal of the season, before Josh Murphy doubled the U’s advantage four minutes into the second half with a wonderful effort from a short corner.

Des Buckingham made four changes to the side which was thumped 5-0 at Bolton Wanderers, as Sam Long, Joe Bennett, Billy Bodin and Will Goodwin came in for Fin Stevens, Greg Leigh, Marcus McGuane and Mark Harris respectively.

Both Stevens and McGuane were left out of the matchday squad completely, while Goodwin was making his first start for the U’s after joining from Cheltenham Town in January.

The home side made a bright start to the game, with a long throw-in and corner early opportunities to get the ball in United’s penalty box, while Funso Ojo fired over from a short corner routine.

The U’s settled though and soon got on top, going on to take control of proceedings in the first half.

Superb work from Murphy down the left saw the winger pick out Bodin, who saw his strike cleared from danger.

From the other side, Owen Dale hooked a ball to the back post, where Mitch Clark got in front of Murphy and headed the ball into the air, before Connor Ripley claimed it.

United took the lead just after the quarter of an hour mark, as a Cameron Brannagan corner found its way to Brown, who smashed home from inside the penalty area.

The U’s stepped things up a gear, with Murphy blazing over at the back post from Dale’s cross, before another corner threatened after 25 minutes.

This time, Elliott Moore forced a fine save out of Ripley with a hooked effort at the back post.

Ten minutes later, Dale drifted inside and sent a shot into the gloves of Ripley.

Valiants manager Darren Moore had seen enough by the closing stages of the first half, and made a double substitution which saw James Plant and Ethan Chislett come on for Clark and Jason Lowe respectively. Both Vale players had also been booked earlier in the game.

Buckingham made a switch of his own at the break, as Harris replaced Goodwin up front.

Murphy doubled United’s lead just four minutes into the second period, when he received a short corner from Brannagan, and drifted into space, before sending a curled effort beyond the reach of Ripley for his fourth goal in eight games.

At the other end, James Wilson blazed wide from 20 yards, while Bodin teed up Dale, who fizzed his strike wide.

Brown then stepped up and stole the ball from the toe of a Valiants player, before leading a U’s counter-attack and feeding Harris down the right channel of the box, however the Welsh striker shot wide.

Buckingham made a double substitution after 73 minutes, as James Henry and Josh McEachran came on for Bodin and Ruben Rodrigues. The changes saw McEachran drop into the deepest midfield slot, with Brannagan and Henry in front of him.

Henry was involved almost immediately, latching onto Brannagan’s through ball, before sending in a clever low cross for Murphy, who took a touch and was subsequently thwarted by Ripley.

With 10 minutes to go, Marcus Browne made his return from injury, when he replaced Murphy down United’s left.

Browne’s last involvement for the U’s came at the beginning of December, when he was brought on as a substitute in the Emirates FA Cup win at home to Grimsby Town, however he was forced off 12 minutes after coming on in that tie.

Before then, he hadn’t played since the 3-1 win at Barnsley on August 19.

A ball over the top from Henry found Brannagan in on goal with five minutes to go, however he could only find the sidenetting with his effort.

Port Vale (4-2-3-1): Ripley; Clark (Plant 39), Smith, Debrah, Jones (Loft 75); Lowe (Chislett 39), Ojo; Massey, Garrity, Mighten (Dipepa 61); Wilson.

Unused subs: Leutwiler, Lopata, Shorrock.

Booked: Lowe, Clark.

Oxford United (4-3-3): Cumming; Long, Moore, Brown, Bennett; Rodrigues (McEachran 73), Brannagan, Bodin (Henry 73); Dale (Leigh 90), Goodwin (Harris 46), Murphy (Browne 80).

Unused subs: Eastwood, Goodrham.

Booked: None.

Referee: Jeremy Simpson (Lancashire).

Attendance: 5,627 (493 away).