Dave Kitson's dramatic late winner kept United top as they beat a brave Dagenham side this afternoon. Kitson's first home goal for the U's sealed a win after James Constable's superb opener for a United side who are making a habit of winning games right at the very end.
United started very much on the front foot and Josh Ruffels forced a fine save from Chris Lewington after six minutes after a neat feint to get a sight at goal. Mullins almost converted the corner but a desperate defender somehow diverted it over the bar, the briefest reprieve for the Daggers.
From the Rose corner Mullins again did well to head back across from the far post. There were two defenders in prime position but Constable used his strength to create a yard of space and then launched himself into a stunning bicycle kick from six yards out that was in the net before Lewington could move. 103 and rising and this was one of the very best.
The U's were rampant at this stage. Ruffels forced another save, Kitson crossed slightly too far ahead of Constable, and with wide men Williams and Ruffels ruffling their full backs it was impressive stuff. Rose's shot rose over the fence, Constable crashed in a 17th-minute effort to force Lewington into another save.
With Asa Hall back in central midfield, and Jake Wright restored to skipper the side from the back, United looked solid all over the park and had Williams' 22nd-minute effort flown into the net rather than over the top then it would have capped just one of many flowing moves in that first quarter of the game.
Unfortunately chances came and went and United were made to pay right on half time. The Daggers should have been out of the game but showed that they had a cutting edge when the lively Zavon Hines found space to fire in a shot from the edge of the box which Ryan Clarke saved well, but otherwise had been well contained until injury time when they equalised with a goal just as good as Constable's opener. Top scorer Murphy looked to be well away from the danger zone but with a shift of the ball and then a superb lofted effort he sent the ball curling over the stranded Clarke and somehow we were all square at the break.
It was a good game of football to watch with United continuing to have the lion's share of the ball in the second half and Dagenham quick on the break. Kitson's clever movement and thinking stood out as United tied to stop Redbridge from parking the bus and riding their luck and on the hour his pass gave Williams a chance which a brave Dagenham defender blocked on the edge of the box. Sean Rigg returned in place of Ruffles just after the hour.
The visitors had ridden their luck in that first half but were quick to close United down in the second period, meaning that space was at a premium. The crowd began to sense that their side needed a boost if they were to get all three points and the volume and pace went up a notch as United began to lay siege to the Dagenham goal. Constable volleyed a Rigg cross straight at the keeper on 80, Deane Smalley joined the attack for the closing stages and surely a goal had to come?
Ninety seconds into injury time and it came from Kitson. Smalley fed Hunt, top provider for United this season, his cross hung in the Oxford night air and Kitson was there to thump his header home and send United back to the top.
NEVER write this team off. See you on Boxing Day.
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Report by Chris Williams, pictures by Steve Daniels, stats by OPTA
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