OXFORD United scored five goals in just 15 minutes on their way to a record-equalling league away win against Crewe Alexandra.

The U’s showed a clinical edge so often missing in recent weeks to strike three times before the break, with two more following in quick succession after the restart.

Josh Ruffels’ header got United up and running eight minutes before half-time, before James Henry made it 2-0 moments later and Elliott Moore struck in stoppage-time.

Brandon Barker fired into the far corner within 120 seconds of the restart and Cameron Brannagan put the icing on the cake with his first goal since September, slotting home after Will Jaaskelainen saved his penalty.

There was still time for Sam Winnall to head home six minutes from time as the U’s matched their 6-0 thrashing of Lincoln City in September 2019 to go ninth in Sky Bet League One, four points short of the play-offs.

And it came with head coach Karl Robinson watching from the stands as he served his one-match touchline ban.

Ruffels made his first appearance since he was forced off with a knee injury against Lincoln City 15 days ago, replacing Jamie Hanson at left back.

It was United game No 310 for the stalwart, moving him into 20th place in the club’s all-time list.

Elsewhere, Mark Sykes returned from suspension in place of Mide Shodipo, which saw Elliot Lee move out to the right flank.

As with all of this weekend’s games in the English Football League, players, staff and officials wore black armbands and a two-minute silence was held prior to kick-off due to the death of Prince Philip yesterday.

It took a while for both sides to settle down and Omar Beckles almost scored an early own goal befitting of a bloopers video, forcing goalkeeper Will Jaaskelainen to scramble back and hook his wayward backpass out for a corner.

That gave the U’s confidence and they should have taken the lead 15 minutes in, following some neat interplay by Lee and Henry on the right.

United’s No 17 fed the onrushing Sykes, whose excellent first touch took him into the penalty area but Jaaskelainen stopped the weak effort down to his left.

Owen Dale spurned Crewe’s best chance to date when he struck the base of the near post following Henry’s mistake, but it remained tight until ten minutes before the break.

That changed dramatically as United shocked the hosts with a clinical end to the half.

The U’s right flank had impressed all afternoon and Long exchanged passes with Lee before sending a cross in from the byline.

Sykes flicked the ball on at the near post and Ruffels did brilliantly to get enough power on the header from six yards, with his effort squeezing past Jaaskelainen.

The left back was involved in United’s second as he won possession in Crewe’s right back position, presenting the ball to Barker.

The Rangers loanee broke into the box and cut the ball back from the byline, which Matty Taylor missed but Henry was right behind him to side-foot home.

United will have been content to reach half-time 2-0 up, but they extended their lead with virtually the final kick before the break.

Henry curled in an excellent free-kick from deep and Moore arrived unmarked at the back post, taking a touch before stabbing home from close range.

If the game was not already over, it certainly was within five minutes of the restart.

Crewe were the architects of their own downfall, inviting Barker to run into space down the left and the winger cut inside before unleashing a fierce shot into the far corner from 20 yards.

Two minutes later Sykes showed great feet in the box and was bundled over by Beckles, giving Brannagan the chance to break his goal drought.

It must have been United’s day, as Jaaskelainen saved the penalty brilliantly down to his right, but could only divert the ball back for Brannagan to dispatch.

Crewe boss David Artell had already brought on Nathan Wood and Chris Porter for Olly Lancashire and Callum Ainley at the break and responded with his final three substitutions.

Antony Evans, Stephen Walker and Luke Offord replaced Donervon Daniels, Charlie Kirk and Owen Dale – right after the latter had headed over from six yards with the goal gaping.

With the points well and truly secured, United made a quadruple substitution on the hour mark.

The 4-3-3 formation remained the same, but Dan Agyei, Winnall and Shodipo replaced Lee, Taylor and Barker in a complete switch of the U’s front three, while Hanson replaced Long at right back.

Predictably, the game began to peter out, although Henry should have made it six when he was played in by Agyei with 14 minutes left.

United did not have to wait long for another, though, and the substitute was the creator again.

Agyei seemed hemmed in on the byline, but he dug out an excellent cross to give the unmarked Winnall an easy header at the back post.

It was the perfect end to a perfect day for United, who bounced back from successive defeats in stunning fashion. 

Crewe Alexandra (4-2-3-1): Jaaskelainen, Daniels (Offord 53), Lancashire (Wood 46), Beckles, Pickering, Murphy, Wintle, Dale (Walker 53), Ainley (Porter 46), Kirk (Evans 53), Mandron.

Unused subs: Richards, Adebisi.

Booked: Beckles.

Oxford United (4-3-3): Stevens, Long (Hanson 61), Moore, Atkinson, Ruffels, Henry (Forde 80), Brannagan, Sykes, Lee (Agyei 61), Taylor (Winnall 61), Barker (Shodipo 61).

Unused subs: Eastwood, Kelly.

Booked: None.

Referee: Paul Howard (London).