WESTLEY: FA Cup must carry bigger rewards
STEVENAGE boss Graham Westley will have to rely on youth to maintain a promotion charge after Boro suffered their first-ever defeat to Oxford in the Football League.
In his pre-match notes, Westley insisted now was the time to put a run of form together and make the top three, but goals from Johnny Mullins and Callum O’Dowda now leave them outside a play-off spot.
Boro are without three key players indefinitely and are unable to bring in any new additions, while Oxford’s first win in four games sees them climb one place to 15th, five points clear of the relegation zone.
Westley said: “I’m not sure the game was that competitive. It was really disappointing.
“I thought we improved after half-time, then came a moment of disorganisation from a silly freekick to concede. The reaction and the mentality was disappointing.
“We’re missing the Marriotts, the Petts and the Whelpdales.They are all in a spot of bother unfortunately, they have been massive for us in our recent run and they are tough players to replace.
“There is no room to bring anyone else in so it’s a question of trying to give the players here a chance and seeing what we can achieve.”
Mullins headed in the opener, and his first of the season, after Michael Collins’ 59th-minute freekick found him unmarked 12 yards out.
The U’s centre back then guided the accurate delivery into Chris Day’s top left corner.
Callum O’Dowda doubled the lead eight minutes later with a simple tap-in after Day produced a fine save to deny Pat Hoban. The Boro keeper pushed Hoban’s firm header from deep in the six-yardbox onto the bar but it left O’Dowda with a simple finish in front of the travelling fans.
Boro’s youth-team captain Ben Kennedy almost gave the hosts the lead with a 50th-minute volley from outside the area but Ryan Clarke pushed over.
The U’s keeper also denied Dean Parrett by pushing his 21st-minute free-wide wide of the bottom corner despite an awkward bounce.
Manager Michael Appleton says Oxford now face a busy 48 hours before the window shuts.
Burton Albion’s Alex MacDon- ald and Peterborough’s Tyrone Barnett are the top targets along with an unnamed midfielder.
Appleton said: “It’s a massive victory, it’s been a difficult four or five weeks for us.
“It couldn’t have gone better. Obviously keeping a clean sheet is good.
“Hopefully we’ve got a very busy 48 hours now, we’ve got some business to do and have got further down the line with a good two or three things.
“Alex will be coming in at 9am on Monday to do his medical and if everything goes well I think he’s going to be a great capture. “We’ve given Tyrone the weekend to mull things over and see what his options are. As far as I’m aware pretty much everything is agreed.”