A MAGNIFICENT finish from James Roberts ensured Oxford United ended 2014 on a positive note as they came from behind to beat ten-man Plymouth Argyle.

It was a result which looked extremely unlikely after half an hour, when the home side were firmly on top and looking to add to Lewis Alessandra's opening goal.

But the home side lost Aaron Bentley to a straight red card, denting their progress.

It took almost 40 minutes for United to make the extra man pay, but they drew level when John Campbell poached his maiden goal for the club with his first touch after coming off the bench.

And United claimed a much-needed three points thanks to a sublime goal from Roberts on 83 minutes, when the 18-year-old picked out the top corner from 20 yards.

It was a stylish way to finish the year and provided a timely boost after a thoroughly miserable Boxing Day.

A second game in 48 hours saw head coach Michael Appleton make four changes to the side which had started the 2-0 home defeat to Shrewsbury Town.

Jon Meades and Joe Riley, forced off with knocks on Boxing Day, were unable to feature, while Johnny Mullins and Danny Rose dropped to the bench.

As a result, Sam Long came in at right back for his first appearance of the campaign, alongside Chey Dunkley, making his first United start.

Josh Ruffels slotted into midfield, while Roberts led the line.

There was little in the game early on and a solid start from United hushed a large Home Park crowd.

But Plymouth, who began the day with the second best home record in the division, showed a ruthless streak when their first chance arrived, on 19 minutes.

A loose clearance from Dunkley saw Ollie Norburn pick out a sprinting Alessandra, who rounded an exposed Ryan Clarke and threaded a shot into the net.

Alessandra was virtually untouchable for the next ten minutes, as United struggled to get anywhere near him.

Twice he got clear in quick succession. Dunkley recovered on the first occasion to concede a corner, but with the next chance the forward should have done better than blaze a shot well over.

Clarke also had to be alert to smother a shot from Bentley on the half-hour mark, as Plymouth created openings at will.

United were their own worst enemies and with a lack of options to pick out up front they repeatedly surrendered possession cheaply.

Argyle were completely in charge, but their progress was derailed 11 minutes before the break.

In a moment of madness Bentley rashly went in over the top on Long, leaving referee Andy Davies with no option but to give the defender a straight red card.

United were suddenly back in the game and saw plenty of the ball before the break.

But their build-up remained painfully laboured, giving Plymouth time to reorganise at the back and they comfortably protected their lead up to half-time.

A double change followed for the restart, with Johnny Mullins and Callum O'Dowda replacing Long and Michael Collins.

The two substitutes quickly combined to force an effort on goal, but O'Dowda's header from Mullins's cross was not powerful enough to trouble former U's stopper Luke McCormick.

Despite their numerical disadvantage, Plymouth continued to create the better chances and Clarke had to save well from Reuben Reid and Lee Cox.

Appleton's final throw of the dice midway through the half saw Campbell come on for the ineffective Wes Burns.

It took just two minutes for the striker, signed last month from Jarrow Roofing, to make his mark.

Dunkley rose to meet an O'Dowda free-kick and from close range Campbell was on hand to scramble the ball home.

It left 20 minutes to find a winner - and Plymouth were the first to come close to a second goal.

Clarke parried brilliantly to keep out a Carl McHugh shot a quarter of an hour from the end and credit also went to Jake Wright for racing to turn the rebound behind for a corner.

United were denied what looked a clear penalty at the other end, when McHugh appeared to handle a cross, but the referee was unmoved.

The away fans were not grumbling for long, though, as Roberts lit up a chilly afternoon seven minutes from time.

O'Dowda won possession on the halfway line and quickly found the young striker on the left.

He dribbled forward and from the corner of the box curled a wonderful shot over McCormick which nestled in the top corner.

United had chances to make the game safe late on as Plymouth committed men forward, but the one-goal lead was sufficient.

It saw them climb to a season-high position of 16th in the table and means they will head into 2015 looking up, rather than over their shoulders.

Plymouth Arg (3-5-2): McCormick, O'Connor, McHugh, Bentley, Mellor, Norburn, B Reid, Cox, Kellett, R Reid, Alessandra.

Unused subs: Bittner, Purrington, Banton, Morgan, Blizzard, Harvey, Thomas.

Booked: Sent off: Bentley, B Reid, Norburn.

Oxford Utd (4-2-3-1): Clarke, Long, Dunkley, Wright, Holmes-Dennis, Whing, Ruffels, Burns, Collins, Hylton, Roberts.

Subs used: Mullins (Long ht), O'Dowda (Collins ht), Campbell (Burns 67).

Unused subs: Crocombe, Rose, Ashby, Humphreys.

Booked: Long.

Referee: Andy Davies (Hampshire).

Attendance: 11,020 (392 visitors).