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Smalley hands credit to U's defence
Deane Smalley came off the bench to score, but the striker felt the praise for Oxford United’s 2-0 win at AFC Wimbledon should go to the side’s defensive players.
He played the final half-hour at Kingsmeadow, and secured a fifth away win in seven games for the U’s with an 81st-minute penalty.
The striker’s finish added to James Constable’s early header, but the visitors had to weather spells of pressure as the home side searched for a way back into the game.
It took strong performances from the back four, goalkeeper Ryan Clarke and the midfield to keep them at bay.
“In the end it looked like a comfortable 2-0 victory, but it wasn’t,” Smalley said.
“Full credit to the lads who played 90 minutes, especially the defenders. “I thought they were outstanding, not just the back four, but the keeper and the midfielders.
“If you look at the last 20 minutes they were defending for their lives, throwing their bodies in front of every ball.”
It is now seven hours since Ryan Clarke conceded a goal in the league, and the fourth successive clean sheet means the U’s have the joint best defensive record in the division.
Smalley said: “It’s been the same all season. They wear their heart on their sleeve and every single game you know what you’re going to get from them.
“It’s not that as strikers we think if we get a goal we might win it. In our heads we will it because we are that confident in the boys behind us.”
Smalley’s pace and strength caused Wimbledon problems after his introduction.
With nine minutes remaining the 25-year-old chased down a through ball from Josh Ruffels and dispossessed Rhys Weston, who then tripped him in the area.
Smalley was just pleased to take advantage of the chance, which took his tally for the season to five.
He said: “We have had three or four penalties this season where I haven’t been on the pitch to take one.
“Luckily I was on the pitch this time and it went in. I tried dummying the keeper and luckily enough he went the other way.
“I was always going to go down the middle.”
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