REPORT: Oxford United 1 Stevenage 1

It was honours even at the Kassam Stadium this evening as United had to come from behind to earn a point against a dogged Stevenage side. The visitors went ahead in the first half through a Sam Long own goal, but a Cameron Brannagan penalty restored parity.

United made two changes to the side that played Lincoln on Tuesday, with Marcus Browne replacing Owen Dale on the wing and Cameron Brannagan in for Josh McEachran and wearing the captain’s armband.

With the Sky cameras present and against a magnificent backdrop of the Yellow Army’s wall of sound, the stage was set for a momentous night.

United were patient in their build-up, waiting for their opportunity to spray the ball wide. It took until the 14th minute before their first sight of goal and when it came it was from a fizzing long-range drive from man-of-the-moment Josh Murphy that Craig MacGillivray fielded.

Sam Long was the next to try his luck, getting on the end of a Brannagan corner but heading just wide. Murphy then dragged a shot wide from 20 yards and it was all Yellow.

On 25 Browne surged into the Stevenage area and was brought down. Surely a spot kick? Corner was the verdict.

Despite all the pressure, just after the half-hour a dangerous low cross was turned into his own goal by Long at the near post to leave United chasing the game.

The response was good, but with Stevenage now having a lead to protect they were prepared to dig deep, while looking to attack on the counter and slow the game down whenever possible.

On the stroke of half-time a Brannagan free kick brought out a good save from MacGillivray and from the resulting corner Browne fired inches wide.

United took the initiative right from thestart, putting the Boro goal under pressure, and with another penalty shout waved away. A move involving Greg Leigh and Mark Harris ended with Ruben Rodrigues shooting at MacGillivray, and the visitors continued to soak up everything the U’s threw at them.

Until they didn’t. Stevens’ ball down the line was chased into the area by Rodrigues who went down under a challenge and referee Tom Nield pointed at the spot. Up stepped Brannagan, with the inevitable conclusion. MacGillivray went one way, the ball went the other, and it was all to play for.

stevenage brannagan pen (5).jpg

Two minutes later and Leigh played the ball of the game, over the top inch-perfect for Murphy to run onto. He squared it for Harris but a defender got back to make the block. Thraen Goodrham played in Murphy on the right but his cross was blazed over by Rodrigues as United continued to ramp up the pressure.

United also looked dangerous on the counter and from one quick break, Owen Dale, on for Browne, sent Murphy into the area, but again MacGillivray came to Boro’s rescue with a fine stop.

At the other end, there was a worrying moment for the U’s when a long ball was chased down and United had to scramble it away for a corner. But generally, the flow of the game was towards the packed East Stand and the vociferous United support.

In the end, Oxford were unable to make their continuous pressure count and had to settle for a point. Will it be enough? Get yourselves down to Exeter next Saturday to find out.

Attendance: 9,174 with 367 away 

Fifty/50: Ticket number 134351 wins £1,170.50

Report: Martin Brodetsky

Photographs: JasonPix, Steve Daniels, Steve Edmunds, Darrell Fisher

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