Rob Duffy showed his great value to the Oxford United team by continuing their recent habit of scoring a goal out of nothing.

The Welsh striker, playing his first full game back in the side after injury, struck his fifth goal of the season to keep the Oxford bandwagon rolling at the top of the Nationwide Conference.

After United had been poor in a scrappy first half on a Marston Road pitch that wasn't the best, they came out for the second half with renewed vigour and purpose.

And just inside the hour mark, Duffy broke the deadlock with a fine individual effort.

Throughout the first half, the U's had often been looking for a killer pass, and were playing it long without joy.

But in the second period they got back to simple short passing and good movement, and it was from a simple pass by Rufus Brevett that Duffy collected the ball 18 yards out, digging it out of his feet and then curling a clever scooped shot over Stafford keeper Danny Alcock.

United, already without the injured Gavin Johnson, Phil Gilchrist and Marvin Robinson, had been dealt a further blow when midfielder Andy Burgess was unable to travel after going down with 'flu.

And how the team missed Burgess's passing and creativity in a scrappy first half in which several of their players were well below their best.

Stafford, who weren't the biggest side by any means, seemed to think that they had to dish it out physically to stand any kind of chance.

Ged Murphy fouled Steve Basham inside the first few seconds, near the huge following of Oxford fans packing one side of the ground, and for the next half-hour, Duffy took a battering from Rangers' giant centre half and captain Wayne Daniel.

A sloppy pass by John Dempster, who was playing because of Burgess's absence, was easily intercepted by striker Guy Madjo, but he hit a powderpuff shot from eight yards which Billy Turley comfortably saved.

The Oxford keeper's kicking was wayward, though, and with Chris Hargreaves's passing often poor and Eddie Anaclet, after a promising start, constantly dispossessed at the end of his runs forward, the visitors were getting nowhere.

Madjo screwed another shot wide, and when Murphy beat Brevett in a challenge just outside the box, he then hit a 20-yard drive which arrowed past Turley's post, the keeper scrambling across his goal just in case.

There wasn't much pattern to the play and the U's were finding it hard to create decent chances.

Basham turned sharply to hit a left-foot shot, which was blocked, from a quick free-kick by Dempster.

Carl Pettefer then wasted a useful free-kick by firing it straight at the Stafford keeper.

It wasn't until the 30th minute that United forced the game's first corner. But nothing came of it.

Matt Day momentarily lost his bearings when he allowed the ball to bounce over his head and Madjo to get goalside of him, but Rangers were poor whenever they got within sight of goal.

A semblance of an attacking move of note came when Duffy headed the ball down to Hargreaves, breaking forward, but the midfielder was crowded out.

A sterile first half ended with Chris Willmott being booked for stupidly kicking the ball away in frustration after conceding a foul.

Jim Smith replaced Dempster with Yemi Odubade for the second half, and the change of formation, and having to face three forwards, confused Stafford.

Oxford immediately started bossing the game, passing the ball to feet, to dominate possession.

However, they had to rely on Turley's agility for saving them in the 51st minute when Neil Grayson met Nathan Talbot's left-wing cross with a sweet volley that the keeper turned around a post.

No-one was more relieved at Duffy's goal than Willmott.

Just four minutes earlier, he blazed over the bar from two yards after Basham headed Anaclet's deep centre back across the face of the goal.

It was another ground-out win, rather than victory won with flowing football. But that has often been the case away from home.

And this was, after all, Oxford United's fifth away win of the season - and we're only in September.

Five away league wins - that's more than they achieved in the whole of last season.