A pretty uninspiring opening 30 minutes at the Valley this evening as Oxford bossed possession and we struggled to get forward in any meaningful way. A midfield of Washington, Pratley, Watson and Shinnie looked short of gas and we were left admiring the probing by Clare and Henry down our left side.
However, after 31 minutes Andrew Shinnie stepped up and took the game by the scruff of the neck. He took down a ball from Gunter in the middle, drew the Oxford backline and played a lovely reverse ball into the path of Conor Washington, who took a touch towards goal before sliding it under the advancing Eastwood for 1-0.
After that we looked far more interested and a free-kick to the left-edge of the box saw Shinnie shaping to cross for Inniss and Famewo. I could see a line of sight to the far top corner but Eatwood was well positioned and I was sure he would get to anything fired that way. Shinnie went direct and his shot tore a line straight into the top corner and there was nothing Eastwood could do - it was far too well struck and motoring. The online bookies payout now at two-nil but we still had to win the match.
Unsurprisingly, we started brighter in the second-half with Shinnie and Smyth continuing to work hard as we looked for a killer third goal. Nothing was falling for us and on 61 minutes Inniss was booked for preventing Eastwood from taking a quick kick. It was a silly booking and five minutes later he was off after a stiff defensive tackle. That changed the game and we spent the last half an hour getting men behind the ball every time Oxford got possession.
Amos was forced to save at close range from Henry once again and Akin Famewo didn't well to block a follow-up shot. Bogle was sacrificed for Purrington after 80 minutes and his first notable touch was to get onto a cut back from Maatsen inside the box. He fared no better than the man he replaced. Shinnie and Smyth spent a couple of minutes playing keep-ball in Oxford's corner at the end and Forster-Caskey also got a few minutes as Washington came off.
First league win over Oxford this century. Five clean sheets in-a-row. Four successive wins. Up to sixth (few others still playing). The game in hand takes us into the top three. Early days and we will need to reorganise without Inniss and Watson at Pompey on Saturday. They are warming up for us by being three-up at home to Northampton this evening after an hour.