Alex Mowatt's first goal for Oxford United was enough to earn the U's all three points at Bristol Rovers this afternoon.
Unchanged after a fine win over AFC Wimbledon, United had to soak up early pressure against a Gas side buoyed by a 6-0 win at Northampton in their previous game. Joe Rothwell had the game's first effort and Wes Thomas fired over after a good run, but much of the play was around Simon Eastwood's area and it took an offside flag to deny Rory Gaffney an early opener as the home side started strongly.
United, all in black, defended well with Nelson and Ledson both making important blocks and then had the best effort of the first half when Wes Thomas closed down keeper Sam Slocombe who could only clear as far as James Henry. His cross cut out everyone but Thomas was agonisingly an inch away as he threw himself at the ball at the back post, only colliding with the upright for his efforts.
Chris Lines flashed a volley inches wide just before half time but there were also yellow cards for both sides as tackles started to fly in and tempers started to fray. Two at the end of the first half were followed by two in the first three minutes of the second and it was becoming a case of whether a goal or red card was coming first.
Gradually the U's were gaining ground and pressing the Pirates back but defences remained on top with great blocks at both ends of the pitch.
The game just needed a goal because it had been entertaining and always full-blooded, and with ten minutes to go it came from Mowatt. Henry, excellent all afternoon, found the energy to carry it down the right and pass inside to Rothwell inside the box. He was baulked but the ball continued along the edge of the box and Mowatt strolled on to it and calmly passed it beyond the stranded Slocombe for his first Oxford goal, rightly celebrated in front of the magnificent travelling Yellow Army.
A good goal and then it was a case of seeing it through and keeping cool at the back. Rovers gave it their all but one clinical moment had divided the teams in a very close game.
Three wins in a row for United who move in to the play-off places. Two home games this week, against Charlton and Rotherham; see you there...
Report by Chris Williams, pics by Darrell Fisher, stats by OPTA
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