Nine-man Stevenage suffered a heavy 5-1 home defeat in a Halloween fixture to forget at The Lamex Stadium.
After conceding early through Ryan Taylor, Boro equalised just past the quarter hour with a fine lob from Chris Whelpdale. Jesse Joronen palmed away a Liam Sercombe penalty two minutes later but the Finn was helpless when Sercombe converted his second penalty on 26 minutes when Jamie McCombe conceded another spot-kick and received a straight red.
Teddy Sheringham’s men went close to an equaliser on the hour when Tom Pett saw a curling effort turned over by Sam Slocombe and that turned to be another turning point in an eventful game as Alex MacDonald made it 3-1 four minutes later. Still the agony continued for Boro with Michael Tonge shown a straight red and further goals by Taylor and Kemar Roofe piling on the misery.
Unsurprisingly perhaps it was Oxford with the early pressure in this one with MacDonald firing over the bar and the U’s winning a number of corners. After 13 minutes that pressure told when Joronen parried a Sercombe shot but Ryan Taylor was there to fire home the resulting cross.
Stevenage responded and drew level in impressive style just past the quarter hour. Visiting ‘keeper Sam Slocombe came out of his goal to clear but only found Chris Whelpdale close to the touchline. The winger took a touch and found the back of the net from fully 30 yards for a quality equaliser.
However two minutes later the U’s were handed a golden chance to restore their lead when referee Swabey penalised a challenge by Parrett inside the box and awarded a spot-kick, despite the midfielder’s desperate protests. Up stepped Liam Sercombe but Joronen guessed correctly and brilliantly palmed his effort away.
After a wild start to the game the atmosphere around The Lamex was electric but the game swung hugely in the visitors favour on 25 minutes when Boro conceded another penalty and were reduced to 10 men. Jamie McCombe was the man dismissed for being the last man and this time Sercombe sent Joronen the wrong way to make it 2-1.
Ronnie Henry came on for the unfortunate Tom Conlon and the U’s flooded forward looking to kill the game before half-time. Alex MacDonald fired over the bar and then Kemar Roofe saw a low effort crash against the post and fly across the goal.
In six minutes of injury time a brilliant low effort from Dean Parrett was parried away by Slocombe, as the visitors took their 2-1 lead into the break.
Stevenage came out pushing for an equaliser in the second half and Armand Gnanduillet, increasingly isolated up top as Boro continued with 10 men, headed straight at Slocombe from a long Whelpdale throw.
The visitors remained a real threat on the break though and Danny Hylton headed straight at Joronen after more trickery out wide by Roofe.
On the hour Teddy Sheringham’s men went close to an equaliser when Tom Pett saw a curling effort turned over after a mazy run from his own half. That turned to be another turning point in this action-packed game as MacDonald made it 3-1 four minutes later, exchanging passes with George Baldock on the edge of the box and firing home first time in devastating style.
Any chance of Boro mounting a comeback of any description disappeared 60 second later when Michael Tonge was shown a straight red card for a late challenge, reducing the hosts to nine men. From that point on it was damage limitation for the remaining third of the game and Oxford remained rampant, looking to add to their goal difference.
Danny Hylton saw a 69th minute goal chalked off for offside but it only delayed the inevitable as Ryan Taylor saw his header from a Baldock cross fly over Joronen’s dive, hit the bar and bounce down into the net.
Tom Pett saw a dangerous cross flash across goal with 17 minutes remaining but there was simply nobody there to convert and from the resulting counter Oxford extended the misery, Kemar Roofe turning onto his left foot and curling home from 18 yards.
Ben Kennedy and Dipo Akinyemi came on for the closing stages but it was purely academic as Stevenage fell to a heavy defeat ahead of next week’s FA Cup first round tie against Gillingham.
Stevenage: Joronen, Franks, McCombe, Hughes, Okimo, Parrett (Kennedy 75), Tonge, Whelpdale (Akinyemi 82), Pett, Conlon (Henry 27), Gnanduillet
Subs not used: Day, Marriott, Wells, Loza
Oxford: Slocombe, Baldock, Dunkley, Mullins, Skarz, Lundstram, Roofe (George 75), Sercombe, MacDonald (O’Dowda 68), Hylton, Taylor (Hoban 72)
Subs not used: Buchel, Rose, Ashby, Cundy
Referee: Lee Swabey
Attendance: 3,412 (876 away)