UNITED were unable to stop Histon's remarkable march towards the top of the Blue Square Premier as they conceded five goals for only the second time since they dropped into the Conference.

Struggling to cope with Histon's strong physical play in the first half, they were 3-1 down at the break.

A second half fightback, in terms of the play, was then ended unceremoniously when the home side struck twice in a minute late on.

The game was a nightmare for Chris Willmott, who scored, but struggled at the back. He saw one clearance ricochet off a defender for one of Stutes goal, and will have been unhappy with his part in at least two others.

Histon were very good at times, as they raced to their seventh successive win, and Leeds United may be in for a tougher afternoon than they realise in the FA Cup next week.

The U's started OK. Jamie Guy broke down the right after a good pass from Matt Day. He opted to chip the keeper from a tight angle on the right and goalkeeper Danny Naisbitt, some way off his line, reached up to catch.

There was a disaster for United, though, in only the fourth minute when they fell behind because of poor marking.

Jamie Barker's right-wing cross drifted over the whole of United's back line, and Day had been sucked inside, leaving Nathaniel Knight-Percival totally unmarked.

Billy Turley did brilliantly to save his header, but there was no covering defender to help him and Knight-Percival lashed home the loose ball left-footed.

It could have been a lot worse. Six minutes later, Luke Foster missed his kick as he tried to cut out a through ball to Jack Midson, who beat Turley with his shot across the face of the goal, but saw it trickle past the far post.

James Constable turned brilliantly and was pulled back by Patrick Ada as he tried to sprint towards goal. The ref might easily have produced a red card as Constable was stopped from having a free run towards the keeper, but he merely booked the striker.

Moments later, after Day had produced some good last-ditch defending, Willmott was badly caught out.

Danny Wright burst down the inside left channel, Willmott couldn't keep up or prevent the cross coming in, and Midson turned it in on the turn, for a classy goal.

The visitors' first real effort on goal came on 23 minutes when Sam Deering got ahead of his marker inside the area to direct a header at goal. It was probably going just wide but the keeper gathered anyway.

Willmott may have been partly at fault for Histon's second goal, but he made amends by heading home Deering's corner in the 27th minute, attacking the ball impressively and powering it into the top right corner, to the delight of the Oxford fans behind that goal.

Day produced a terrific challenge to prevent a third Histon goal, and was unlucky not to have got a free-kick because he was fouled after clearing.

From the throw-in, and then a cross, the U's failed to deal with the second ball - which had been a feature of the first half - and Knight-Percival lashed the ball high into the net to make it 3-1.

Hichliffe replaced Turley for the second half, with United's No 1 trouled by a neck injury . . . perhaps not surprising considering the amount of high crosses he'd had to deal with.

Hinchliffe did well to deal with a testing high ball, which came from a miscued clearance by Day.

The pressure kept coming and Chris Carruthers had to clear from in front of his own line.

Murray had taken over the captain's armband from Turley for the second half, having earlier in the season asked to be relieved of the captaincy to try and concentrate more on his own game.

There was an injury worry for Foster, who appeared to hurt his ankle in a collision with Hinchliffe, but he was able to continue.

United's own attacking threat at corners was good, and a few minutes after hobbling to his feet, Foster was very close to netting with a glancing header at a flag kick from Murray, after James Constable's shot was deflected wide.

They again almost found the net on 56 minutes when Eddie Hutchinson's header, at a Deering corner, had to be cleared off the line by Pope.

Yemi Odubade replaced Jamie Guy early in the second half, and he soon almost put Deering in.

As the game opened up, and became end to end, Hinchliffe saved from Josh Simpson's low shot and then, when play returned to the other end, the sub nipped in, ahead of Constable, but fired into the side netting.

The U's had come back into the game well, but they then committed suicide at the back as Histon struck two goals in quick succession.

Danny Wright slipped the ball past Hinchliffe on a run along the right flank, and Willmott's clearance rebounded off Wright and flew into the goal.

Seventy seconds later and Willmott's unconvincing clearance at yet another corner was picked up by Matthew Mitchell-King, who knocked it back past the defenders and into the net.

It was no more than a consolation second goal from Oxford when, ten minutes from time, Trainer delivered a good cross from the left and Hutchinson, running in, met it with a firm header into the bottom left corner to make it 5-2.

It was a crushing defeat for Oxford United, but no-one should lose sight of the fact that Histon is a club on the up, have a very effective way of playing, and are nigh-on invincible at home.

Oxford Utd: Turley (Hinchliffe h-t), Day, Willmott, Foster, Carruthers, Deering, Murray, Hutchinson, Trainer; Constable, Guy (Odubade 64). Subs not used: Clarke, Haldane, Burnell.