MATTY Taylor continued his rich vein of scoring form as Oxford United closed in on the Sky Bet League One play-off places with a third successive victory.

The striker made it 16 goals for the season – and six in the last five games – with a second-half double against Accrington Stanley at the Kassam Stadium.

It gave the U’s a cushion after James Henry, who set up the third goal to continue a prolific partnership, opened the scoring early on.

While the game finished as comfortably as the 5-0 victory over AFC Wimbledon a week earlier, United had to work harder for the points.

They needed two goal-saving blocks in the first half, which gave the 69 visiting supporters cause for encouragement.

But United went on to run out worthy winners to move within one point of sixth place ahead of Saturday’s meeting with struggling Southend United.

Hamstring issues saw Anthony Forde and Nathan Holland drop out of the XI from Saturday’s win at Ipswich Town, replaced by George Thorne and Sam Long.

Thorne’s first league start saw Alex Gorrin pushed further forward – and the new-look midfield took time to find their rhythm.

Accrington looked the livelier early on, with Jordan Clark testing the home defence with two dangerous early crosses.

He was involved again on 13 minutes to open up United with a clever pass for Sam Finley, whose cutback found Joey Pritchard.

It looked a certain goal, but Long made a brilliant block and within seconds Browne was charging forward and passing for Henry, who finished clinically from 15 yards.

United went on to look dangerous, Taylor heading a cross from Gorrin over, while Josef Bursik saved from Marcus Browne after the forward carved out a shooting chance with a nutmeg.

Accrington continued to play and cause problems, though.

They should have equalised just after the half-hour mark. Clark’s header was superbly clawed out at full stretch by Simon Eastwood, who could only look on as Dion Charles pounced on the rebound – but again United came up with a big block, Thorne this time in the right place at the right time.

The January signing from Derby County began to pull the hosts’ strings late in the half with a series of simple but effective first-time passes.

It was Cmaeron Brannagan though who sent Henry clear in the 40th minute, but as he attempted a repeat of Saturday’s assist for Taylor the cross was cut out.

Thorne’s quality on the ball was evident again just before the break. After a corner came back to him, the 27-year-old’s first-time delivery was wicked and flicked on by Rob Dickie, but Taylor’s instinctive volley was straight at Bursik.

United will have gone in at the break knowing a one-goal lead was precarious, but within five minutes of the restart they had breathing space.

Browne was again involved as he drove forward. This time he slipped in Brannagan, whose touch took him wide but he showed good vision to cross and give Taylor a simple finish at the back post.

United threatened to cut loose as they had against Wimbledon.

Bursik saved with his legs to deny Henry after Taylor’s clever pass, while the goalkeeper quickly made an even better to save to tip Browne’s swerving 35-yard free-kick round the far post.

Accrington kept probing, with Pritchard heading over and substitute Mark Sykes surviving a handball appeal in the penalty area.

But with 18 minutes remaining the points were made safe, via a familiar combination.

After Long’s improvised overhead pass put Henry into space he hardly needed to look up before crossing to give Taylor a headed chance he devoured.

It took the sting out of the game as United were able to conserve their energy for the weekend.

Oxford Utd (4-3-3): Eastwood, Long, Dickie, Moore, Ruffels, Gorrin, Thorne (Sykes 63), Brannagan, Henry (Mackie 89), Taylor, Browne (Agyei 78).

Unused subs: Stevens, Atkinson, Hanson, Holland.

Booked: None.

Accrington Stan (4-4-2): Bursik, Johnson, Sykes, Alese (Rodgers 87), Opoku, Clark, Finley, Conneely, Pritchard, Charles (Ashley-Seal 67), Bishop (Zanzala 78).

Unused subs: Savin, Maguire, Diallo, Barclay.

Booked: Finley, Johnson.

Referee: David Rock (Hertfordshire).

Attendance: 5,622 (69 visitors).