A HAT-TRICK from James Henry proved the difference as Oxford United romped to a 3-1 win over an injury-ravaged Lincoln City.

Henry scored his 49th, 50th and 51st goals in yellow colours on a glorious afternoon for the U’s.

It was a frustrating return to the Kassam Stadium for Michael Appleton, who before the game said he had just 13 fit senior outfield players, and was only able to name five players on the bench.

United had the better of the opening stages and had the first shot with eight minutes on the clock.

Gavin Whyte collected the ball on the left side of the box and hit a low effort, bringing a comfortable save from Josh Griffiths.

Three minutes later, the U’s did have the lead through Henry.

Jordan Thorniley intercepted the ball and swerved past a Lincoln player before playing the ball to Henry, who took a touch to set himself on the edge of the box and fired in a fizzing effort beyond Griffiths and into the top corner of the goal.

Another shot came from the edge of the box on 13 minutes but this time Cameron Brannagan’s attempt was parried away by Griffiths.

On 19 minutes, the Imps got forward to effect for the first time.

Thorniley stuck out a leg to put the ball behind after good work on the left from Cohen Bramall.

The resulting corner from Anthony Scully was headed against the bar by Adam Jackson.

At the other end, Matty Taylor had a shot from inside the box blocked and Henry tried his luck with a dipping effort from just beyond the right corner of the six-yard box, which went over.

On 23 minutes, Henry did however bag his 50th goal for the U’s, and it was pretty much a carbon copy of the first.

After finding space on the edge of the box, Henry rifled home a low effort into the corner of Griffiths’ goal.

Seeking a goal to propel themselves back into the game, the Imps nearly broke through with 33 minutes on the clock.

However, a great touch from Thorniley stopped the progress of Hakeeb Adelakun, who was in full stride drifting in from the left.

Two minutes later, Henry had the chance for a first-half hat-trick.

He freed Mark Sykes down the right, who then teed up Henry but his sidefooted attempt was hit straight at Griffiths.

Lewis Montsma quickly became the pantomime villain at the Kassam, after first lashing out at Taylor and then going down after the briefest of touches by United’s number 9.

The U’s came out strong in the second half, Henry weaving his way down the right and getting to the byline but nobody in a yellow shirt could get on the end of his cutback.

Brannagan then had a shot from the edge of the box comfortably punched away by Griffiths, with 48 minutes gone.

Six minutes later, Brannagan then had another chance to score.

It followed more great work by Henry, who again got to the byline but Brannagan was blocked from getting on the end of the cutback.

Just before the hour mark, Cohen Bramall’s cross from the right was headed towards goal by Adelakun.

Jack Stevens was forced to punch the ball over, and the resulting corner eventually found itself to Bramall who fired wide from 35 yards.

On 68 minutes, the visitors broke down the left with Bramall, who fed Scully, whose curling effort from inside the box breezed past Stevens’ goal.

Three minutes later, Henry sealed the perfect afternoon.

In space on the right, his cutback found Taylor, who was nudged over with referee Will Finnie having no option but to award a penalty.

Henry stepped up and sent Griffiths the wrong way, planting his spot kick to the goalkeeper’s right.

With seven minutes to go, Henry was awarded a standing ovation at the Kassam as he was replaced by Nathan Holland.

Despite the seemingly comfortable position, the Imps clawed themselves back into the game when Sam Winnall – on as a substitute for Taylor – nudged over Ted Bishop inside the penalty box.

Scully stepped up and fired his spot kick into the roof of the net, and almost immediately had a second but his shot from inside the left side of the box hit the sidenetting.

In the final minutes, Lincoln had a couple of shots from range but nothing to seriously trouble the U’s, who saw out the game to win 3-1.

Oxford United (4-3-3): Stevens; Forde, Moore, Thorniley (McNally 63), Seddon; Brannagan, Gorrin, Henry (Holland 83); Sykes, Taylor (Winnall 76), Whyte

Unused subs: Eastwood, Mousinho, McGuane, Agyei


Lincoln City (4-3-3): Griffiths; Poole, Jackson, Montsma, Bramall; McGrandles (Fiorni 68), Bridcutt, Sorensen; Bishop, Adelakun (Longdon 88), Scully

Unused subs: Long, Brooks, Eyoma

Booked: Bridcutt

Referee: Will Finnie (Bedfordshire)