Oxford United had as bad a day at the office as they have had under Darren Patterson as they fell to their heaviest home defeat of the season and also had 17-year-old right back James Clarke sent off for two yellow cards.

They gifted promotion-chasing Burton two embarrassingly easy first-half goals.

Billy Turley and Barry Quinn were the guilty men, far too casual and sloppy in their own box.

Clarke was dismissed in the 71st minute for a second booking when he hauled back Keith Gilroy as he cut in from the left on a run into the box.

But the Aylesbury youngster could argue that his first caution, for a foul on 18 minutes, was a harsh one.

The excellent Gilroy then got a third Burton goal six minutes from time by hammering home after a well-timed run from deep after Shaun Harrad raced around Michael Howard.

Burton, just a place behind the play-offs, took the lead in the 20th minute with a bad blunder by Turley, who stood like a statue when John McGrath floated the visitors' first corner into the six-yard box, leaving Daryl Clare the simple task of poking the ball home from three yards out.

The U's could easily have been ahead by then and were very unlucky that Quinn's header on 17 minutes, from Michael Howard's free-kick on the right, came back off the bar with goalkeeper Saul Deeney floundering.

That free-kick came after Yemi Odubade, selected on the right of a three-man attack in a 4-3-3 formation chosen by Darren Patterson, was brought down by Paul Hurst just outside the area, which earned the Albion left back a yellow card.

And Quinn's disappointment at hitting the woodwork must have doubled when the Irishman made a mess of defending a right-wing cross in the 27th minute, completely missing his kick, and allowing Keith Gilroy to drive low under Turley's body from 12 yards to make it 2-0.

Gilroy had been denied moments earlier by an excellent save from Turley who pushed the midfielder's fine volley around his right post at full stretch.

United's keeper partly redeemed himself with that save, but the damage had been done.

Craig McAllister and Adam Murray were unable to force the ball home from four yards as the keeper came out, which perfectly summed up the frustrating afternoon Oxford were having.

But there was no excuse for the way, for a 15-minute spell, the home side simply seemed unable to pass the ball properly. They looked less than comfortable too with the system, Burton able to capitalise on the space they often found in the middle of the park by breaking with menace.

Phil Trainer, recalled to the side and deployed on the left of Jamie Hand and Adam Murray in the centre, went close in the opening minutes when he flicked the ball away from two defenders but could only hook his shot across the face of the goal.

While Burton were able to pass the ball accurately despite the windy conditions, Oxford's players continually lost possession even when not under pressure.

It was a rank awful first 45 minutes from the U's , and the fans let it be known by booing them off at half-time.

Patterson changed to 4-4-2 for the second half and gave the same players ten more minutes before bringing on Justin Richards and Danny Rose.

Michael Blackwood also came on midway through the second half, with a message from his manager to try to produce something more explosive going forward.

He did produce a good right-wing cross that Richards flicked at goal, but it didn't trouble Deeney.

When Burton got their third goal, and again at the final whistle, a chorus of "What a load of rubbish" rang out from the disillusioned home supporters.

And it was impossible to disagree.Oxford Utd: Turley, Clarke, Quinn, Foster, Howard, Hand, Murray, Trainer (Rose 55), Odubade (Blackwood 67), McAllister, Green (Richards 55). Subs not used: Day, Pettefer.

Att: 4,392 (201 from Burton) Sent off: Clarke (2 yellow cards)