Oxford United's 2008 got off to a terrible start when their former winger Jamie Cook punished them at Broadfield Stadium yesterday.

The Crawley Town player, who hails from Witney and used to play for the U's when they were in the equivalent of today's Football League Championship a decade ago, struck two goals in less than three minutes midway through the second half.

His first goal was pure brilliance as he struck a 40-yard shot over Billy Turley and into the net from a central position.

It was a piece of skill the like of which you don't normally see in the Blue Square Premier.

That 67th-minute beauty was followed a minute later by a moment of madness at the back as Barry Quinn brought down sub Jon-Paul Pittman n ear the penalty spot.

The ref immediately pointed for a penalty, and needed no time in brandishing the red card to Quinn.

Then, when everything had quietened down, up stepped cook to convert the spot kick low to Turley's left.

It was a nightmare few minutes for the U's, who had actually looked a lot more impressive in the second half after Rob Duffy had replaced Joel Ledgister.

Moments after coming on, Duffy connected with Alex Jeannin's low left-wing cross with a side-footed shot, but Town keeper Ashley Bayes made a comfortable save down to his right.

Darren Patterson made two changes to the side which drew with Kidderminster at the weekend.

Luke Foster returned after his one-match ban to resume alongside Quinn at centre back. And, as well as Mickey Corcoran dropping to the bench, so too did striker Rob Duffy, as Joel Ledgister was asked to link up with Yemi Odubade up front.

Matt Day came in on the right side of midfield in the position Ledgister had previously occupied.

James Clarke was booked in the sixth minute for a cynical hauling-back of Cook near the left touchline and the ref then didn't endear himself to the visiting supporters by ordering the free-kick to be taken ten yards more central, though it came to nothing.

Quinn was guilty of some uncharacteristic sloppiness as he gave the ball away with a misplaced pass straight to Lee Blackburn, but the home side didn't take full advantage.

Turley raced out of his goal to save at the feet of Cook, who was playing up front for Crawley against his old club.

Midway through the first half, Odubade made a good chance for himself by getting past Paul Watson on a fine fun. Yet after cutting purposefully in towards goal, and with Ledgister making a run to his left, he sliced his shot horribly. It's now 11 games since Yemi found the net.

A far better strike came from Jeannin in the 33rd minute when a clearance reached him 35 yards out. He advanced a couple of yards and then struck a left-footed drive so sweetly and was unfortunate to see it hit the top of the stanchion rather then the top of the net.

For so much of this season, United have relied on their defence and there were two exceptional moments from Foster and then Jeannin to prevent Crawley taking the lead.

First Foster timed his tackle to perfection when Pierre Joseph-Dubois broke clear. And a few minutes later, when Cook crossed the ball dangerously to the far post, Jeannin stretched out his leg to divert it away from Ronnie Bull in the nick of time.

Further forward, the U's often struggled to hold the ball up, with the result that it kept coming back to their overworked defence.

What a difference it was in the second half, though, once Duffy had replaced Ledgister.

Duffy immediately looked as though he meant business, in contrast to Ledgister's languid style.

He linked well with Odubade, and after one very good move, involving about six players, the ball was worked out to Day on the right, yet he scooped his volleyed effort over.

After the two goals in quick succession, and being reduced to ten men, the visitors reshuffled, with Eddie Hutchinson dropping back into defence.

Sub Matty Taylor got up well for a far-post header, which dropped narrowly wide.

Only a brilliant and brave save from Turley denied Cook his hat-trick.

Once again, the end product was lacking from United.

That, though, couldn't be said of Cook. His first goal was a real gem.