AFTER 45 games of twists, turns, ups and downs, it was not supposed to be this straightforward.

There was always a sense an Oxford United season like no other would not be decided until the final kick, but it was all over long before that.

The U’s played without pressure to make an awkward-looking fixture against Burton Albion a formality, scoring at key times to put the game to bed before the hour mark.

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They displayed a ruthlessness Portsmouth lacked in their 1-0 defeat to Accrington Stanley, which opened the door for United.

Performances like yesterday’s make you wonder how this side were ever anywhere near the relegation zone, as there was only one winner from the moment Mide Shodipo headed United in front after ten minutes.

In many ways it was similar to the U's opener at Shrewsbury Town last week - a quick counter-attack, with Mark Sykes picking the right option on the edge of the box.

This time it was James Henry rather than Matty Taylor who received the pass, and the cross was perfect for Shodipo.

Taylor showed his all-round quality for the second goal, plucking the ball out of the sky and laying it off to Elliot Lee, then being the first to react when a poor clearance dropped into space.

WATCH: All the goals from yesterday's game

Burton's chief threat came through set-pieces and long throws, which United - particularly Rob Atkinson and Elliott Moore - tidied up with little fuss.

That is important considering both goals in their 2-0 defeat to play-off semi-final opponents Blackpool in March came through set-plays.

After Lee's free-kick made it 3-0 it was no longer about events at the Kassam Stadium, but Winnall's brilliant volley certainly dragged attention away from Fratton Park for a moment or two.

Since losing 2-1 to Accrington - ironically - on April 5, they have played with a freedom that has seen them score 24 times in seven matches, although they have also only kept two clean sheets.

It will be interesting to see whether they set up the same way when it comes to a play-off semi-final, especially with fans in the ground.

But for now, we should celebrate a second successive top-six finish in the third tier.

From where this club has been in the last 20 years, it is a real achievement.