Boro taught a lesson
Oxford United 2 Stevenage Boro 0 BORO were given a footballing lesson on the day in a rare Conference defeat. Vibrant hosts Oxford look to be regaining their form at just the right time and brushed aside the challenge of a below-par Boro. Goalkeeper Alan
Oxford United 2 Stevenage Boro 0
BORO were given a footballing lesson on the day in a rare Conference defeat.
Vibrant hosts Oxford look to be regaining their form at just the right time and brushed aside the challenge of a below-par Boro.
Goalkeeper Alan Julian ensured the margin of defeat was just two goals with a fine display as Boro's attacking threat was limited.
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Missing top scorer Steve Morison and the injured pair of Adam Miller and Steve Guppy, Boro never clicked into gear at the Kassam Stadium.
Boss Mark Stimson admitted his side were distinctly second best on Saturday.
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Stimson said: "It's been a long time since we lost on our travels and a long time since we played so badly.
"We were bright at the opening and then it was one-way traffic; their strength and movement was too much for us.
"We could have been four down at half time. Alan (Julian) was outstanding and that's always a problem because that means all the players in front of him haven't done well.
"Too many players were in a comfort zone and some players didn't take their opportunity."
In the absence of leading scorer Morison, Paul Hakim made his full Boro debut but cut a lonely, isolated figure up front.
Stimson continued: "Paul was tidy but never got much of the ball. I also felt sorry for Mitchell Cole as he never saw the ball too much either."
Boro made an assured start and there was no sign of the events that would unfold.
Cole's burst down the wing was crudely halted in the first minute but Mark Hughes wasted the free-kick opportunity.
Boro were not really seen as an attacking force after the first quarter of an hour with Oxford taking full control.
The Boro goal led a charmed life on 16 minutes.
First Yemi Odubade slipped in Eddie Anaclet and his shot appeared to be blocked by the arm of skipper Ronnie Henry.
A corner, rather than a spot-kick, was awarded and Matt Day's header was then brilliantly clawed away from the top corner by Julian.
Julian performed similar heroics from the resulting corner as he pushed Michael Corcoran's low shot onto the foot of the post.
To cap it all, Odubade retrieved the ball and his cross-shot nearly crept in under the bar with Henry just averting the danger.
Boro old boy Rob Duffy, who had an unhappy spell at Broadhall Way towards the end of last season, headed wide when he should have scored as the visitors were well and truly on the back foot.
The pressure continued as Corcoran's shot was deflected just wide before Julian produced another stunning save to turn away a shot from man of the match Dan Rose. From the resulting corner, Duffy's header was somehow stopped on the line by John Nutter.
Boro were hoping to reach the sanctuary of half time unscathed but their hopes disappeared 30 seconds before the break.
Julian was powerless this time as Andy Burgess floated over a corner and Day sent a header into the corner.
The game was virtually over as a contest when Oxford scored a second on 58 minutes.
Stimson had just made a double switch with Craig Dobson and Damian Batt on for Hughes and Barry Fuller.
And it was Batt that inadvertently deflected in Anaclet's shot as Boro were exposed yet again.
There were a couple more scares as Oxford sought a third with Rose going closest as he shot across the face of goal.
Boro's only sight of goal arrived in the 90th minutes when Jon Nurse's header was comfortably held by Billy Turley.
The game was becoming increasingly stretched and sub Carl Pettefer's shot drifted wide before Julian kept out Odubade's fierce drive as Oxford broke once more.
The 6,410 attendance was by far the biggest crowd Boro have played in front of this season.
More than 500 (519) made the journey from North Herts and they will hope it was a merely a blip in an improving season.