OXFORD United moved back into the Sky Bet League One play-off places with a comfortable victory at Southend United.

First-half goals from Matty Taylor and James Henry put the U’s on course for their first league victory at Roots Hall since 2003.

Taylor pounced on a loose pass to put the visitors ahead after just 53 seconds, with Southend’s Richard Taylor costing his side.

Read also: Matty Taylor hails Oxford United's game plan at Southend

His fellow centre back Timothee Dieng was at fault for United’s second goal, passing straight to Henry to finish ruthlessly.

Quickfire strikes from Taylor and Dan Agyei – the latter's first for the club – capped the triumph late on as United made it 15 games unbeaten in all competitions.

Anthony Forde was a late promotion to the starting line-up shortly before kick-off, after Shandon Baptiste injured his groin in the warm-up.

Forde came into the midfield three alongside James Henry, while Josh Ruffels returned from injury to make his first appearance for three weeks at left back.

United were ahead within seconds of the first whistle and they had their hosts to thank.

Taylor, making his first start for the Shrimpers, dwelt on the ball for far too long while trying to pass it out from the back.

When he did release the ball it went straight to Taylor, who took his time before slotting past home keeper Nathan Bishop.

Soon after United could have made it two after scything through their opponents far too easily.

Taylor’s flick was moved on to the advancing Henry, but his touch was too heavy and Bishop smothered the ball.

United’s pressing of the Southend back four made the home fans restless and they were calling for a sending off when Alex Gorrin went in high on Stephen McLaughlin.

The U’s midfielder escaped with a booking, but will now miss the home game against Shrewsbury in two weeks after accumulating five yellow cards.

Henry made no mistake 12 minutes before half-time as he doubled the visitors’ lead, with the hosts again culpable.

This time Dieng played the ball straight to the United man, who fired into the far corner from 20 yards for his ninth goal of the season.

The midfielder unselfishly squared to Taylor moments later as United almost made it three, but the striker’s shot was blocked on the line.

United were almost out of sight five minutes into the second half, as Mark Sykes fed Henry after cleverly turning away from his marker.

The midfielder laid it back to Fosu on the edge of the area, but his low shot bounced agonisingly off the right hand post.

Rob Hall replaced Forde, who had been a calming presence in the centre of midfield, with Sykes moving into the centre.

The game appeared to be meandering towards 2-0, but with five minutes left Henry was given time and space to slide the ball across to Taylor.

The on-loan striker finished ruthlessly to make the points safe, before Agyei added gloss to the scoreline a minute later.

After seizing on a loose ball, the forward – who replaced Fosu during the celebrations for Taylor’s goal – advanced to bury a finish past a motionless Bishop.

Southend United (5-3-2): Bishop, Bwomono, Dieng, Taylor (Hutchinson 57), Kiernan, Ralph, Milligan, Hamilton (Goodship 67), McLaughlin, Cox, Hopper.

Unused subs: Oxley, Ndukwu, Demetriou, Acquah, Rush.

Booked: Milligan

Oxford United (4-3-3): Eastwood, Cadden, Dickie, Mousinho, Ruffels, Gorrin (Moore 81), Henry, Forde (Hall 71), Sykes, Taylor, Fosu (Agyei 85).

Unused subs: Stevens, Long, Jones,

Booked: Gorrin, Henry

Referee: Tom Nield (West Yorkshire)

Attendance: 6,835 (905 visitors)