Boro denied by 10-man United
Stevenage Boro 1 Oxford United 1 Boro missed a glorious chance to bag three big points against 10-man Oxford United this afternoon at The Lamex Stadium. David Bridges gave Boro a vital lead early in the second period against a United side, who had ex-Bo
Stevenage Boro 1 Oxford United 1
Boro missed a glorious chance to bag three big points against 10-man Oxford United this afternoon at The Lamex Stadium.
David Bridges gave Boro a vital lead early in the second period against a United side, who had ex-Boro man Damien Batt sent off for preventing a goalscoring opportunity in the first half.
But Boro couldn't hold on to the advantage and, when Mitchell Cole fouled Adam Chapman inside the area, in-form striker James Constable made no mistake to hand United an unlikely point.
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To make matters worse, Bridges was stretchered off with what looked like a serious leg injury following a collision with Billy Turley and looks set for another long period on the sidelines.
Junior Mendes was given his Boro debut following a loan move from Aldershot with the Montserrat international taking up a right midfield role in the absence of Andy Drury, who missed out due to a hamstring injury.
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Ronnie Henry came straight back into the starting line-up at right back following his three-match suspension with Jon Ashton moving into the centre alongside Mark Roberts.
Michael Bostwick was pushed into central midfield as Darren Murphy had to settle for a place on the bench.
Buoyed by the 2,000 travelling supporters, Oxford made the faster start and Chris Day was forced into a good save as early as the second minute when Adam Chapman's 20-yard volley skipped along the surface but the former Millwall man got down well to parry away.
Boro inched their way into the contest, however, and only a dubious offside decision deprived Morison from being in on goal in the 12th minute when Cole released the former Northampton striker.
The home fans roared their disapproval but the fact the Oxford back four were leaving room in behind boded well for the likes of Morison and Cole.
Oxford were still in the ascendancy though with Boro having to face a succession of testing Adam Murray corners but Westley's men were just about holding firm.
And it got better for Boro midway through the half when Oxford had Damien Batt sent off after he hauled down Cole when the winger was through on goal.
A defence splitting pass from Bostwick found Cole, whose first touch took him clear of the former Boro man before Cole's legs were taken from him just outside the area.
The referee had little choice but to send Batt for an early bath despite the Oxford protests and suddenly Boro had a golden chance to dispose of one of their play-off rivals.
United 'keeper Billy Turley had to make a good save from Morison's resultant free-kick but the whole dynamic of the contest had suddenly swung in Stevenage's favour.
A flowing move started by Morison ended with Bostwick having a decent chance on the edge of the Oxford penalty area but the 20-year-old fired horribly wide under pressure.
Boro failed to press home their one-man advantage for the rest of the half while Mendes looked short of match fitness and was having difficulty getting into the game.
Murray's inswinging free-kick came close to opening the scoring just before the break but the ball drifted just wide much to the relief of the Boro faithful.
But Westley's half-time team talk appeared to do the trick as Boro took the lead in the 50th minute. Mendes finally came to life and found some space down the right hand side before sliding a ball through for Morison.
Boro's top goalscorer held off the defender and got to the by-line before pulling the ball back for Bridges, who had made a perfectly timed run into the penalty area, and the midfielder swept home from six yards.
It was a precious goal and typical Bridges, who has showed himself to be one of the best goalscoring midfielders outside the Football League this season.
But Oxford could have levelled within two minutes when a long range effort from Kevin Sandwith took a wicked deflection that Day did brilliantly to tip away.
The game had come to life and Turley had to make a smart save to keep out Boylan's well struck shot from 18 yards before Bridges had a goal ruled out for offside after he reacted quickest to the Oxford 'keeper spilling a Bostwick shot.
It proved to be Bridges' last action as the former Kettering man collided accidentally with Turley and was stretchered off with his right leg in a brace.
It got worse for Boro soon after when Constable grabbed the equaliser from the penalty spot.
Adam Chapman made a break into the Boro penalty area and Cole clipped the midfielder from behind and the referee had no hesitation in awarding a penalty.
Day managed to get a hand to Constable's spot-kick but the striker's effort had too much power and United were level.
Mendes had a glorious chance to hand the lead back to Boro when he latched on to Boylan's flick on but Turley made himself big to deny the striker.
Mark Roberts made an excellent block to deny Constable late on as both sides had to settle for a point.
Boro (4-4-2): Day 6, Laird 6, Ashton 6 (Mills 73), Roberts 7, Henry 7, Cole 7, Bridges 8 (Murphy 63), Bostwick 7, Mendes 6 (Vincenti 87), Boylan 6, Morison 6. Subs not used: Bayes, Wilson.
Oxford United (4-5-1): Turley 7, Carruthers 6 (Farrell 58), Foster 6, Willmott 6, Batt 5, Nelthorpe 6 (Sandwith 46), Clist 7, Chapman 7, Murray 7, Haldane 6 (Odubade 84), Constable 6. Subs not used: Hinchliffe, Hutchinson.
Referee: J Adcock