MANAGERLESS Oxford United secured their place in the knockout stages of the EFL Trophy with a comfortable win at home to Chelsea Under-21s.

Sonny Perkins and Jordan Thorniley netted in the first half, with Josh Murphy adding a quickfire brace in the second period, before Mark Harris smashed in a late fifth goal.

Both teams knew a victory would take them through alongside MK Dons, and for the U’s, it was their first game without Liam Manning, who was announced as Bristol City head coach earlier in the day.

Interim head coach Craig Short made two changes to the side which won 2-0 at home to Maidenhead United in the first round of the Emirates FA Cup.

Stephan Negru and Thorniley were the only players to keep their place, while James Henry made a first appearance of the season.

The opening exchanges of the game had a feel of one at this stage of the competition, with both teams relatively happy to sit off when the other had the ball.

James Beadle though was forced into an early save with his feet when he thwarted Somto Boniface after a good move down the right-hand side.

Perkins then nodded wide from a Henry corner, before Negru saw an effort at the back post deflect over.

With quarter of an hour played, the U’s took the lead after excellent work down the left wing from Murphy.

The former Cardiff City winger was a thorn in the Blues backline, and worked himself space to cross for Perkins, who was left with a simple tap-in inside the six-yard box.

Three minutes later, United doubled their advantage when Thorniley scrambled home at the second attempt, after an initial Alex Gorrin cross from the right-hand side.

Henry’s deliveries from corners continued to cause problems for Chelsea, with one dead ball situation searching out Ciaron Brown at the back post, however the Northern Ireland international’s attempt took a nick and went out for another corner.

The ball made its way to the centre of the pitch, before being recycled into the Chelsea area, where Brown hit a fierce effort into the unfortunate Gatlin O’Donkor.

Murphy then forced a save out of Eddie Beach at his near post with a thunderous strike, while the U’s counted themselves lucky that Leo Castledine misplaced his pass after sloppy play from United at the back.

Tyler Goodrham replaced Henry at half-time, and the U’s had a sniff of goal within the opening moments of the second period when Perkins bent a 20-yard shot just over the crossbar.

Jimmy Morgan then fizzed one over from a tight angle for Chelsea, as the visitors sought a route back into the clash.

O’Donkor had proven a handful for the Blues defence in the first half, and he took that into the second, muscling his way through, before seeing a shot charged down.

Short’s next alterations saw Ruben Rodrigues and Harris replace Perkins and O’Donkor just after the midway point of the second half, before Josh McEachran came on for Gorrin.

Murphy added United’s third goal when he latched onto a magnificent ball through the heart of the Chelsea defence, and kept his composure to produce a cool finish past Beach.

Wales Under-21s keeper Beach then produced a stunning save to tip over a Harris strike from 20 yards, while Goodrham flashed one just wide from a similar distance.

The fourth goal of the evening came when a clever U’s move ended with Murphy taking the ball beyond Beach, before applying a simple finish by tapping home.

There was then a special moment for Leo Snowden, who in replacing Fin Stevens, became United’s youngest ever player at 15 years and 157 days old.

Harris slammed in a fifth goal off the underside of the bar for United moments after four minutes of stoppage time were signalled.

Oxford United (4-2-3-1): Beadle; Stevens (Snowden 83), Negru, Thorniley, Brown; Gorrin (McEachran 70), Smyth; Henry (Goodrham 46), Perkins (Harris 65), Murphy; O’Donkor (Rodrigues 65).

Unused subs: Marriott, Moore.

Booked: Thorniley.

Chelsea Under-21s (3-4-1-2): Beach; Brooking, Gilchrist (Silcott-Duberry 85), Williams; Hughes, Rak-Sakyi (McMahon 85), Matos, Boniface (Gee 65); Castledine; Morgan (George 65), Stutter (McNeilly 85).

Unused subs: Merrick, Wilson.

Booked: Gee.

Referee: James Durkin (Dorset)

Attendance: TBC (TBC visitors).