Michael Appleton’s side entered the game on the back of a 3-1 midweek win over a 10 man Accrington side which claimed the U’s first win of the season. Whereas Stevenage visited the Kassam following a 2-1 defeat to high flyers Bury and were looking build on their loss. The first half was mainly dominated by Oxford as a number of very good chances fell to the so far prolific Danny Hylton but he squandered the chance to give his side the lead as he saw all four of his first-half strikes sail narrowly wide. Stevenage were very organised and showed great resilience to prevent the U’s from penetrating. The two centre halves, Bira Dembele and Dean Wells, won almost everything that was thrown at them, making it increasingly frustrating for Oxford United. Into the break it remained goalless with Stevenage failing to register a shot on target and Oxford ultimately dominating.

The second half continued with a similar ilk as the first and the U’s began to struggle to muster any clear cut chances. The two banks of the Stevenage four stood strongly and it was this organisation that made it difficult for United. The Oxford fans began to jeer and taunt Westley’s negative tactics as their frustration escalated. Stevenage however created a few half chances of their own as Chris Whelpdale forced a good save from Long with his swerving effort from range. The two chances of the half both fell to Danny Hylton once more. The first occurred when a loose ball fell to Hylton who consequently rounded the keeper but was forced wide and had no option but to cut back, but an outstretched leg from the Stevenage keeper kept the scores level. The final chance came from a set piece which saw Mullins’ header scrambled off the line and from 6 yards out Hylton cannoned wide. In a game which saw Oxford maintain 73% of the possession, Appleton’s side will be very disappointed not to take the 3 points and really kick on with their campaign. From a Stevenage point of view I am sure they will be absolutely delighted with their well grafted point they earned on Saturday afternoon.

Views from the dressing room

Oxford United boss, Michael Appleton said,

“It was a game we absolutely dominated and when we got the ball, we passed and moved it very well and created numerous opportunities. […] Overall it was a really pleasing performance and we kept a clean sheet, which was magnificent from us.”

Stevenage boss, Graham Westley said,

“That was a pretty solid, strong and disciplined performance in the second half. We cut out a very good chance that could have won it.”

Oxford United

 George Long – Long was largely uncontested throughout the game but when he was called upon, he answered well making a couple of fine saves. Long was also rewarded with his first clean-sheet of the season 7.0
 Joe Riley – Riley had a very good game. He was strong going forward and did not let anything get down United’s right flank. Another strong performance from the Bolton loaner. 7.5
 Jake Wright – Wright won almost everything in the air and stepped up to the plate when he was needed. 7.0
 Johnny Mullins – Wright’s counterpart Mullins had a very similar game. He dispatched well and maintained defensive composure in the dying minutes when he put in a vital challenge. Strong performance from Mullins 7.5
 Tom Newey – Newey’s dispatch was regularly poor as he over hit a number of clipped passes to O’Dowda. He was solid defensively and tracked back very well on a number of occasions to prevent Stevenage 6.5
 Michael Collins – Collins was metronomic in the midfield. His pass completion rate was very high and his work ethic was fantastic. His work rate enabled him to control the midfield well and he had a blistering performance. 8.5
 Josh Ruffels – Ruffels too was pivotal in the midfield. He was controlling, composed and dominant which enabled United to control the game as much as they did. 8.0
 Danny Hylton – Hylton was on the end of every chance that Oxford created but the U’s top scorer failed to find the back of the nets. He was lively but his proficiency in the final third let him down. 7.5
 Brian Howard – Howard had an impressive debut on Tuesday night and he continued to perform well on Saturday. The creative midfielder speeds the game up well in the final third and his excellent vision created chances. A strong performance from Howard. 8.0
 Callum O’Dowda – O’Dowda is in brilliant form and full of confidence, bagging himself another man of the match performance. The young winger showed great maturity, trickery and brilliance down the left wing and was a real asset to Oxford. 9.0
 Tyrone Barnett – Barnett’s hold up play was excellent but he had a relatively quiet game. He perhaps should have done better on two occasions but his touch let him down. 6.5

Substitutions

 Junior Brown – Brown came on for Howard and was bags of energy. He made an instant impact but could not find a way to unlock the Stevenage defence. 6.5

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Stevenage FC

 Chris Day – The Boro goalkeeper made a number of smart first-half saves which frustrated Oxford. He was commanding and performed well 7.5
 Michael Richens – Richens had a tough first half against O’Dowda but a change in tactics at half time allowed him to contain the youngster more efficiently 7.0
 Bira Dembele – The powerful sweeper had a very strong game preventing Oxford from posing too much of a threat. He was very strong in the air and contained Barnett well. 7.0
 Dean Wells – Wells too was very strong defensively. Cancelled out Barnett and Hylton well and put in a few last ditch tackles to prevent Stevenage from falling a goal behind. 7.5
 Darius Charles – The makeshift left back had a fairly good game. He lacked defensive prowess but overall put in a good shift considering it was far from his natural position. 6.5
 Ronnie Henry – Stevenage captain Henry had a fairly solid defensive performance but did not get on the ball enough and create an attacking threat 6.5
 Charlie Lee – The holding midfielder did well sitting in front of the back four to cancel out oncoming Oxford attacks. 7.0
 Cameron Lancaster – The winger did not do enough for his team going forward. However this was probably down to the way Stevenage were set up 5.5
 Adam Marriott – Marriot needed to be more composed on the ball when it was at his feet. Only managed 40 minutes before coming off with a hamstring problem 6.0
 Chris Whelpdale – Like Lancaster, Whelpdale did not make enough attacking runs and help his team out enough going forward 5.5
 Chris Beardsley – The centre forward did not manage to get a shot on goal throughout the whole game. Very poor from the target man. 5.0

Substitutions

 Connor Calcutt – replaced Marriot well. Did exact what was asked and perhaps should have scored 7.0
 Dean Parrott – Very lively when he came on. Forced a good save from Long and was the only real spark in the Stevenage side 7.0
 Tom Pett – Did ok for the 45 he was on for. Didn’t seem too composed on the ball but overall a good performance 7.0

Man of the Match

Callum O’Dowda – O’Dowda has been a great asset for Oxford recently and he didn’t file to impress. His trickery forced a complete change in tactics from Graham Westley and the youngster proved a massive handful. His new found confidence is raising the United fans off their seats week in week out. Outstanding from O’Dowda. 9.0

*All images belong to Oxford United @OUFClive and Sky Sports.


About Author

Aspiring sports journalist from Oxford. Also a lifelong supporter and season ticket holder of Oxford United. My job here is to supply brief match reports and player ratings of Oxford United players and the teams they oppose.