Shots fans unfurled a banner prior to today's League Two match calling for Kevin Dillon's team to "MATCH OUR PASSION!" Well, match it they did....and they trumped it too, as a wonderful curled, 25 yard left foot strike from striker Marvellous Marvin Morgan, sealed a "backs to the wall" victory for Shots, who were forced to play more than half of the match with ten men, following the dismissal of defender Jamie Vincent!
According to Dillon, he picked his team for this match some 10 days ago, following the 1-0 win at Torquay and told the players then too. The Shots boss made no less than eight changes for today's match and reverted to a more familiar formation, with the returning Glen Little given a free role behind lone striker Morgan.
Fresh from last weeks victory over League Two front runners Port Vale, the home side began strongly. Top scorer James Constable had the ball in the net for the home side within four minutes - only for the goal to be ruled out for offside. Always a threat, particularly in the first half, Constable would go close again twice more, with Shots keeper Jamie Young...and his crossbar, somehow keeping the ex Kidderminster striker at bay.
Shots first real chance came on 26 minutes, when a good run and cross from Herd found Morgan at the far post but this time the woodwork came to the home side's rescue. Soon after, Little twisted and turned before firing straight into the grateful arms of Oxford keeper Ryan Clarke.
Having picked up a booking early on, Shots left back Vincent received his marching orders in the 42nd minute for a similar offence - tripping an opponent as they broke clear towards goal. Dillon adjusted his formation to 4-4-1, with Straker reverting to left back, Jackson swapping wings and Little moving out to the right.
United began the second half as they had the first, but the Shots defence held firm. With almost an hour gone, Morgan pounced on a poor back pass, took two touches and from 25 yards curled a beautiful left foot shot in off the far post to put Shots ahead.
Oxford came at Shots again and again, but found Charles, Jones and Herd in mean mood! Each one in turn threw themselves bravely in front of goalbound efforts, Herd doing so twice. When Josh Paynes blistering 20 yard strike finally breached the visitors defence, keeper Young - in outstanding form of late - was equal to it!
The longer the game went on, the more Shots looked comfortable with the situation and if anything, looked the more likely to score. Spencer and McGlashan joined the fray. They held the ball up superbly, McGlashan winning free-kicks for fun as the home team's frustration grew and the remaining minutes were seen out with ease.
The win takes Dillon's team up to tenth in League Two, but perhaps more importantly, the confidence and self belief it should inject into the squad could just be the "shot in the arm" they need to propel them forward and into another serious tilt at the play-offs! That said Dillon knows only too well that if that's to happen, then Shots home form will need to improve quickly, ideally next week against Morecambe.
Shots: Young, Herd, Vincent, Charles, Jones, Panther, Jackson, Harding, Straker, Little, Morgan. Subs used: McGlashan (on 59 -for Little) Gutteridge (on 73 - for Jackson) Spencer (on 86 - for MMM)
Attendance: 7808 (with 707 visiting Shots fans)
Shotsweb MAN OF THE MATCH - Ben Herd