Jeckyl & Hyde Shots, who have looked like world-beaters in the Carling Cup, bowed out of the Johnstone Paint Trophy with little more than a whimper, after a limp, lacklustre display against a sharper, hungrier Oxford United side.
Manager Dean Holdsworth made four changes to his starting line-up for this Johnstones Paint cup tie. Jamie Young was recalled in goal and Peter Vincenti, Anthony Pulis and Bruno Andrade all came in to the side. Guttridge, McGlashan, Worner and Rankine all dropped to the bench. Surprisingly, there was no place - even in the squad - for Bradley Bubb.
The first half was scrappy with very few clear cut chances at either end. Brown in the Oxford goal didnt have a shot to save and Young in the Shots goal just one, tipping an Asa Hall shot round his left hand post for a corner.
The game lacked a goal, but within seven minutes of the second half starting -it had two - both for the visitors. Firstly, Rob Hall, on loan from West Ham, scored with a powerful run down the left and a shot from 25 yards which beat Young a little too easily. Then, just two minutes later, Deane Smalley - no stranger to scoring against Shots - burst on to a ball down the right flank and despite looking suspiciously offside, cut in and beat Young even more easily with his left foot.
Shots - and Holdsworth looked shocked - his side - which had until recently boasted an excellent defensive record, are now beginning to concede a little too often and a little too easily. He threw on Rankine and McGlashan - with Vincenti and Andrade making way.
But Oxford, buoyed by their two goals, had now gained full control of the match and continued to press. Another two efforts were headed wide...and then blocked as shell shocked Shots suddenly seemed drained of all confidence. Simple passes began to go astray. On came Guttridge for the disappointing Pulis and Shots had virtually their first choice eleven out on the pitch.
For a while the game followed the same pattenr, but then suddenly, with just 14 minutes left to play - an effort on target - and indeed - into the target for Shots! Rodman was pulled down left edge of area, near the by-line. Rodman took the resultant free kick, hooking it into the area, where Hylton met it with a powerful, downward header. 1-2, Shots back in it. Then moments later, Collins got his toe to a cross and it sailed agonisingly by U's left hand post.
From then on, it was the frustrating sight of seeing yet another team effortlessly hanging on to a one goal lead at the EBB. Four minutes of added time came and went, as did Shots interest in the Johnstone Paint trophy for this season. Poor, very poor from Shots, who must regain some form and some confidence quickly to get their season back on track.
Shots: Young, Herd, Jones, Brown (A), Straker, Andrade, Pulis, Collins, Rodman, Vincenti, Hylton. Subs: Worner, Brown (J), Guttridge, McGlashan, Rankine.
Att: 1429 (156 Oxford fans)