PETER Leven was extra confident of scoring the match-winning penalty for Oxford United after outwitting Cheltenham Town goalkeeper Scott Brown in previous games.
The midfielder coolly converted the 16th-minute spot kick in a 1-0 win at the Kassam Stadium.
It was the third time in as many games Leven had scored a penalty against the Robins this season.
All of them had come against Brown and the 29-year-old’s previous successes meant he knew exactly what to do when the chance came.
He said: “I knew I had him on toast a little bit because I had gone down the middle twice in the other games.
“I think he thought I was going to do it again, so he had to stand there.
“I told him before I hit it I was going down the middle, so I had the choice either side.
“I knew before the game if I got a penalty that’s what would happen.”
Leven’s goal was the highlight of a game in which neither side were at their fluid best, partly due to a bumpy playing surface.
The result was all-important to United, though, as they showed a resilient streak to earn a fourth straight victory, three of which have come in npower League Two over the Christmas period.
The result means that they are now just five points off the play-off places.
After enjoying the attacking skills on show in wins over Exeter City and AFC Wimbledon, manager Chris Wilder was delighted to see his defenders take centre stage.
He said: “It was a different type of game for us, one where we’ve dug in and really rolled our sleeves up.
“It was a big effort and it’s a big result for us in terms of beating a side in the top three.”
He added: “I think if you had said that going into this period – with two away games and a home game against Cheltenham – that we were going to get nine points, we would have snapped your hand off.
“I never underestimate Cheltenham because they invest in players and have a good squad, so to beat them is a great bonus.
“We said our professionalism, application and focus would be rewarded and that’s happened over this period. The trick is to go on now.”
* The Football Association are expected to consider Oxford United’s appeal against James Constable’s red card on January 2.
The striker was dismissed in the 3-0 win at AFC Wimbledon for what referee Lee Collins believed was an elbow on Will Antwi.
United feel that television evidence and photographs prove that was not the case, but if the panel upholds the original decision, Constable will be banned for the next four games.