ROBERT Hall capped his Football League debut with the winning goal as Oxford United returned to winning ways at Dagenham & Redbridge tonight.

The 17-year-old on-loan West Ham striker converted a well-worked 41st-minute free-kick to end a run of three games without victory.

And it was the least Chris Wilder’s side deserved.

However, once again they spurned several gilt-edged chances to make the game safe and were then forced to play out a nervous last few minutes to secure the win.

For the first 25 minutes, Oxford had to withstand a barrage of high balls from the hosts, and were unable to create any worthwhile chances.

Boss Chris Wilder changed from a 4-3-3 system to 4-4-1-1 to stop the delivery from the hosts, and it worked a treat.

The U’s suddenly started to find room and took control.

The goal, when it came, was beautifully created.

Paul McLaren’s right-wing free-kick 20 yards from the touchline was played flat across the box when everyone was expecting it to be lofted, and Hall swept home right-footed.

Wilder made two changes from the side that drew against Burton Albion, Hall replacing Lewis Guy, whose loan from MK Dons has not been extended, while Damian Batt came in for Andy Whing.

After a frantic start in which neither side were able to settle, the first shot on target came on 12 minutes when Peter Leven tried his luck from the halfway line, but Dagenham keeper Chris Lewington gathered easily.

The best chance came on 17 minutes when Oluwafemi Ilesanmi crossed from the left and Jon Nurse headed wide from 12 yards when maybe he should have at least tested Ryan Clarke.

Peter Gain then headed wide for the hosts, who were using the long ball more and more into the wind to try and trouble the visiting defence.

Batt was harshly booked for kicking the ball away, before Oxford enjoyed their best passage of play of the opening half-hour.

Leven drove a free-kick straight at Lewington, and then when James Constable flicked on a throw-in, Alfie Potter headed well wide.

A beautiful move saw Leven play in Hall down the left flank, and the West Ham man raced through and delivered a great centre that Constable put over at full stretch.

In truth Constable should have scored, but it wouldn’t have counted with the linesman’s flag up for offside.

Nonetheless, it was super football from the U’s.

Some patient build-up play from United then created a chance for Simon Heslop in the 39th minute, but his volley from 12 yards was saved by the legs of Lewington, producing the first corner of the game.

Two minutes later the U's were ahead.

Potter tried to dink between two defenders, was fouled and from McLaren's free-kick, Hall netted.

Dagenham started the second half slightly better, but United’s harrying and hassling denied them room to create.

Potter and Heslop combined to set the former free, winning a corner with his trickery.

Heslop was replaced by Josh Payne on 57 minutes.

Brian Woodall had only been on the pitch for two minutes for Dagenham when he spurned a glorious chance to equalise, spooning a corner over the bar from six yards with the goal at his mercy.

Hall and Potter linked well on the counter as the hosts threw more men forward.

Great work from Payne then presented Potter with a golden chance to win the game.

The winger beat Scott Doe, then dragged the ball back to wrongfoot the defender and Lewington, but with the goal gaping, hit his shot against the bar.

Potter then had another chance, but this time his shot was saved by the legs of Lewington.

Hall then put a super ball across goal, but just out of reach of the United strikers.

Potter played sub Deane Smalley in with just the keeper to beat, but he could not get a shot away and the chance had gone.

Clarke then had to make his first save of the match six minutes from time, diving full stretch to deny Sam Williams.

And in the last minute, Clarke somehow clawed another Williams header away from under his bar.

It was a relieved United bench when the final whistle went. But the win was all that mattered.