Halloween horror show for nine-man Stevenage as Oxford score five
- Credit: Archant
Match report: Stevenage 1 Oxford United 5
Nine-man Stevenage had a Halloween horror show as they went down 5-1 at home to Oxford United.
Yet such was the visitors’ domination of this game, they would probably have had these points sewn up had Jamie McCombe and Michael Tonge both stayed on the pitch.
Leading up to the match Teddy Sheringham had said that his side would have to be at their best to get anything from the game, but they were far from it.
From start to finish there was only one team going to win this encounter as Michael Appleton’s men put on a real show; it had the sort of style and substance that has led to plaudits in many quarters talking them up as they edge their way up the league to second.
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But for Boro this was something of a fright night as they just could not cope with Oxford’s fluid attacking play as the visitors marched to victory, leaving Boro with just one win from their past 11 games.
Having already lost McCombe to a red card in the first half as they went into the break trailing 2-1, Boro’s staff asked their players to keep their shape in the second as they hoped to grind something – anything – out of the match.
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But a nine minute spell midway through the second period saw the visitors score three more times while Tonge also saw his marching orders.
The signs were there right from the start. In the opening minutes of the game Alex MacDonald fired over while Kemar Roofe forced a low stop from Jesse Joronen and McCombe had to head another effort over the bar from off the line.
They went straight for the jugular right from the off, and they got the opening goal they deserved when Liam Sercombe’s shot was saved by Joronen before the same player squared the ball for Ryan Taylor who eased the ball in.
Boro, though, drew back level thanks to a gift of a goal from the visitors. Goalkeeper Sam Slocombe came off his line to clear as far as Chris Whelpdale on the right, and the midfielder took a touch before curling his shot over the goalkeeper and his defence to make it 1-1.
But that was as good as it good for Boro, who by the time the half-time whistle had blown had conceded two penalties, one goal and had had McCombe sent off.
First Dean Parrett was adjudged to have brought down Liam Sercombe in the box, only for Joronen to pull off an outstanding stop to deny the Us the lead from the spot.
Then the visitors were gifted another chance to take the lead when Danny Hylton was tugged back by McCombe in the box after getting beyond the defender, leading to a red card for Boro and a goal from the spot from Liam Sercombe who this time went the other way.
Oxford then hit the post in first-half stoppage time thanks to Roofe before Sam Slocombe saved well from Boro as the match was intriguingly poised at the break.
And for the first 15 minutes of the second half the hosts kept things tighter as they restricted Oxford to possession but not many chances.
Tom Pett even forced Sam Slocombe into a fine save, the goalkeeper tipping the ball over the bar after the winger’s run and shot.
But Boro’s season has not been built on a strong defence, and within time Oxford had scored a third thanks to Alex MacDonald’s shot from the edge of the area.
If that hadn’t already made it game over, then what happened next certainly did as Boro lost Tonge to a red card following a late tackle on John Lunstram.
Oxford were unhappy with the challenge, and they punished Stevenage in the best way possible: with two more goals.
First Taylor headed over Joronen for 4-1 before Roofe smashed goal number five past the Boro goalkeeper.
From then on Oxford kept the ball for long periods as Boro limped to the final whistle.
They will now have to address their wounds and apply the bandages as up next, next Saturday, is the visit of League One side Gillingham in the FA Cup.
Stevenage: Joronen, Franks, McCombe, Hughes, Okimo, Whelpdale (Akinyemi 82), Pett, Conlon (Henry 29), Tonge, Parrett (Kennedy 76), Gnanduillet. Subs: Day, Marriott, Wells, Loza.
Oxford United: Slocombe, Baldock, Skarz, Roofe (George 76), Mullins, Sercombe, Hylton, MacDonald (O’Dowda 69), Lunstram, Taylor (Hoban 73), Dunkley. Subs: Buchel, Rose, Ashby, Cundy.
Ref: Lee Swabey