OXFORD United climbed into the Sky Bet League One play-offs with a well-deserved win over top-six rivals Burton Albion.

Matty Taylor and Nathan Holland returned to haunt the Brewers, with the striker taking just 48 seconds to score against these opponents for the fourth game in a row.

Holland had already found the net at the Pirelli Stadium this season, netting in the Carabao Cup in August, and his deflected effort made it 2-0 just before the break.

United goalkeeper Jack Stevens was ruled out with glandular fever and deputy Simon Eastwood almost kept a clean sheet, only for Charlie Lakin to score ten minutes from time.

But James Henry immediately restored the lead from the penalty spot to send the U’s sixth in the table, as the isolating Karl Robinson watched from home again.

Stevens’s unexpected absence meant a first league outing since last November for Eastwood, while 18-year-old Kie Plumley was part of a United competitive senior squad for the first time.

Holland and James Henry returned in place of Gavin Whyte and Alex Gorrin, with Herbie Kane moving into the deeper midfield role.

Elliott Moore made his 100th U’s appearance, while Ryan Williams was back on the bench ready to play his 50th game.

The substitutes had barely taken their seats when Taylor gave United an early lead for the second Saturday running.

The striker pounced when Frazer Blake-Tracy completely missed Sam Long’s hopeful ball forward and beat Ben Garratt to make it 1-0 after just 48 seconds.

The goalkeeper saved from Taylor at his near post after seven minutes, before former U’s striker Kane Hemmings sent a header well over the crossbar moments later.

That came from a Tom Hamer cross, but the Burton right wing back’s chief threat came from his long throws – which Moore headed away more often than not.

United managed to keep the Brewers at arm’s length during an open first 45 minutes and they had two great chances just after the half-hour mark.

Taylor’s shot was blocked by a despairing dive, before Garratt made the first of two great saves to deny Cameron Brannagan.

The U’s No 8 made an excellent run from deep to meet Mark Sykes’s through ball, only for the goalkeeper to race off his line and block the shot.

The lively Harry Chapman curled just over after United failed to clear a free-kick, before Michael Bostwick was booked for scything down Taylor.

Garratt made an even better save three minutes before the break, flying to his right to push Brannagan’s volley onto the post after the midfielder met James Henry’s cross 12 yards out.

The keeper had no chance moments later, though, as Holland scored at the Pirelli Stadium for the second time this season.

Long claimed his second assist of the day, crossing low for the West Ham United loanee to bag his fourth of the campaign, via a heavy deflection off Bostwick.

Blake-Tracy was replaced by Jonny Smith at the break, as Burton switched to 4-4-1-1.

The Brewers started the half with plenty of energy as they searched for a way back into the game, but needed another good Garratt save to prevent a third United goal.

Holland took possession near the halfway line and raced into the penalty area before shooting, only for Garratt to push the ball past the post.

Jordan Thorniley made a brilliant last-ditch sliding tackle to stop Smith running through on goal, before Chapman saved Burton when Holland looked set to convert Taylor’s cross.

Whyte replaced Sykes for United, before Lakin and Daniel Jebbison came on for Cameron Borthwick-Jackson and Lucas Akins in Burton’s final changes.

There were more excellent blocks at both ends, with Moore denying Hamer and Whyte thwarted by a covering defender as he raced into the area.

United were good value for their lead, but Lakin halved the deficit with ten minutes left.

The U’s failed to clear Chapman’s cross and the substitute was in the right place to spin an effort beyond Eastwood and into the top corner.

It appeared to set up a tense finale, but United quickly nipped that in the bud.

Taylor reached a header just before Garratt and the goalkeeper brought him down, with Henry showing great composure to send his opponent the wrong way from the spot.

Burton Albion (3-4-1-2): Garratt, Shaughnessy, Bostwick, Blake-Tracy (Smith 46), Hamer, Oshilaja, O’Connor, Borthwick-Jackson (Lakin 67), Chapman, Hemmings, Akins (Jebbison 67).

Unused subs: Balcombe, Taylor, Gilligan, Powell.

Booked: Bostwick, Hemmings, Akins.

Oxford United (4-3-3): Eastwood, Long, Moore, Thorniley, Seddon, Henry (Gorrin 88), Kane, Brannagan, Sykes (Whyte 65), Taylor, Holland (Williams 88).

Unused subs: Plumley, Forde, Bodin, Agyei.

Booked: Brannagan.

Referee: Samuel Barrott (Shropshire).

Attendance: 3,391.