United's season ended a game early this afternoon as they were beaten 2-1 by Accrington Stanley at the Kassam Stadium. Needing a win to keep their faint play-off hopes alive United were beaten by a Stanley side whose win ensures that the two sides will meet again next season. Goals from Kayode Odejayi and James Gray gave Stanley the three points despite a well-taken goal from Ryan Williams for the U's.
Player of the Season Ryan Clarke was called into action in the second minute with a smart save at his near post as Tom Aldred's deflected effort looked to be sneaking in for a Stanley side looking for the point they needed to guarantee their tenth season in the Football League.
United were playing some neat enough football but on 18 minutes were behind amid controversy. Keeper Marcus Bettinelli beat Dave Kitson to a cross at the far post and hurled a superb throw to the left wing to set Gray on a chase with Michael Raynes. Raynes got to the ball first but as he did so Gray knocked him off balance and was clear. He blasted his shot straight at Clarke but the rebound found Odejayi who bent his shot past the hopeful Jake Wright on the line.
It was yet another blow to the U's who were grateful to Clarke for another good save on 29 as he reached up to block a rasping drive from Josh Windass from the edge of the box. Windass, son of former U's star Dean, looks a good player and for the opening half Stanley looked the more dangerous side as United's attacks ended with shots blocked or the final ball going a wide of the mark.
James Constable, restored to the attack alongside Kitson, volleyed a couple of shots wide of the mark and a swirling Ruffels cross was spilled on to his own post by Bettinelli but otherwise United had rarely threatened and will have faced strong words at half time.
Sadly, whatever was said had little effect as within eight minutes United were 2-0 down and facing their first ever defeat to Stanley after ten meetings. Two missed challenges, a bit of persistence from Gray and he was clear on goal for a simple finish past the exposed and for once helpless Clarke.
United needed some urgency from somewhere and on 68 minutes it came from Williams as he ran on to a flick and drove at the visiting defence. As he has done all season the Fulham loanee took his man on and found space ten yards out to slot home a neat finish and give his side a chance at 2-1.
The U's now started to play with the passion that their situation needed, with sub Scott Davies driving them forward, and had penalty appeals waved away as they pushed on. There was more industry but still no end product against an Accrington side who defended well and deservedly celebrated their survival.
In reality results elsewhere meant that United would be playing League 2 football again whatever the outcome in their own game. They now travel to Northampton on Saturday to complete their fixtures.
Report by Chris Williams, Pictures by Steve Daniels Stats by OPTA
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