Stevenage fell to a 2-0 home defeat to Oxford in a scrappy game at The Lamex Stadium this afternoon.
Second half goals for Johnny Mullins and Callum O’Dowda did the damage for the U’s who bounced back from four games without a win to inflict Boro’s first home defeat since early October.
Team news saw three changes with Calvin Zola making his first start and both Beardsley and Deacon earning recalls, replacing the injured trio of Tom Pett, Adam Marriott and Chris Whelpdale. Jon Ashton returned to the bench after a spell out and was joined among the subs by Ben Kennedy and Jo N’Guessan.
The previous meeting between the two sides was a low key game bereft of much goalmouth action and the first half here was pretty much the same. With Boro making changes and Oxford welcoming some new faces into their line-up it took a while for this game to get going, particularly on the tricky surface.
Eight minutes in and Simon Walton saw his shot from a Parrett corner blocked before Oxford eventually cleared after a scramble in the box.
It took until the 19th minute for the visitors to register a shot when Pat Hoban took aim outside the area but could only find the side netting.
Two minutes later Parrett won a free-kick after a trademark burst through the middle resulted in him being hauled down. The midfielder dusted himself down, stepped up and forced Clarke into a low save around the post with a curling effort.
Chances remained few and far between, particularly for the visitors who saw a speculative 30 yard shot by Hylton easily gathered by Day. Boro meanwhile were left to feed on scraps with Beardsley and Zola struggling to keep the ball up top with Oxford’s defence in control.
Half-time saw Graham Westley ring the changes with second year scholar Ben Kennedy handed his debut and Jo N’Guessan returning to first team action in place of Zola and Deacon. It seemed to spark Boro into life as they began at a much higher intensity and created some good early chances.
Within 60 seconds of the restart Lee won a corner after jinxing around the Oxford defence with N’Guessan then firing over via a deflection after Parrett had burst into the box. Walton saw a shot deflect behind before Kennedy nearly marked his debut with a spectacular 49th minute volley which was heading for the top corner until Clarke produced a fine save.
Parrett saw a low effort chalked off for offside 10 minutes in as Boro kept up the pressure but instead it was Oxford who broke the deadlock just prior to the hour mark. Beardsley fouled his man in the far corner after tracking back well and from the resulting free-kick Johnny Mullins saw his header find the back of the net.
Buoyed by that goal the visitors came at Boro again and only a last gasp slide by Parrett on Collins three minutes later prevented him from latching onto a Danny Hylton cross.
Sub N’Guessan saw a low shot saved down by Clarke after the referee played advantage after a foul on Beardsley, but it was Oxford who promptly went up the other end and doubled their advantage.
From a Brindley cross from the right, Pat Hoban’s flying header was spectacularly tipped onto the bar at point-blank range by Day, only for Callum O’Dowda to pounce on the rebound and find the bottom corner.
It was a blow Boro were never really to recover from as although they looked to push forward in the closing stages they were met by some resolute Oxford defending. Lee saw a header gathered by Clarke and sub David McAllister also had a crack from 20 yards but that apart, the hosts just couldn’t find a way past the men in yellow.
Next up for Boro is a tricky trip to Mansfield who themselves fell to a defeat at Carlisle. Graham Westley will be hoping key injuries clear up quickly and his men can regroup ahead of that trip to Nottinghamshire and bounce back to winning ways.
Stevenage: Day, Henry, Wells, Charles, Okimo, Deacon (Kennedy 46), Walton, Parrett (McAllister 74), Lee, Zola (N’Guessan 46), Beardsley
Subs not used: Beasant, Dembele, Ashton, Bond
Oxford: Clarke, Skarz, Brindley, Mullins, Wright, Rose, Hoban, Hylton (Roberts 85), O’Dowda (Burns 90), Whing, Collins
Subs not used: Crocombe, Ruffels, Long, Ashby, Dunkley
Referee: Tim Robinson
Attendance: 3,146 (522 away)