WEST­LEY: FA Cup must carry big­ger re­wards

The Football League Paper - - FRONT PAGE - By James Walker

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.”

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