Coventry City 2 Oxford United 1
Oxford United were beaten 2-1 at Coventry City tonight as League 1's bottom side claimed a vital victory. First-half goals from Ben Stevenson and Marvin Sordell sealed the win for Mark Venus's side as the U's failed to rediscover their momentum after Saturday's win against previously unbeaten Bradford despite Dan Crowley's late strike.
All in navy, United called on Simon Eastwood to make a good save after two minutes when Marvin Sordell got the first shot of the night away but then settled into their now familiar shape and looked comfortable, with Chris Maguire floating behind Kane Hemmings in a 4-4-1-1 formation.
They had chances to score first. Maguire banged in a well-struck effort on 13 minutes to call home keeper Lee Burge into action for the first time in front of a stand where just a giant image of Sky Blues legend Jimmy Hill broke up the empty seats in a crowd of 9,912 then they almost found the opener on 23 when Chey Dunkley rose superbly and thumped a header against the bar with Burge beaten.
But just as the U’s were building up a head of steam they fell behind to a rocket from Stevenson. Having blocked one effort United were coming out of defence but the midfielder strode on to the ball 30 yards from goal and lashed in a screamer that gave Eastwood no chance whatsoever.
It momentarily silenced the magnificent 2,137 away fans behind that goal but it wasn’t long before they found their voices again and urged their team forward once more. Coventry had looked anxious before the goal but enjoyed a much better second half of the first half and Charlie Raglan, Josh Ruffels and Dunkley needed to make good blocks before the U’s gifted Sordell a second goal right on half time.
You could see it coming when a long ball dropped in between Phil Edwards, racing back towards his own goal, and Eastwood, sprinting the other way. Both had eyes only for the ball and with a sickening inevitability Edwards headed it past the stranded keeper and Sordell merrily tapped home with the simplest of finishes.
Stung by some hard words at half time and lifted by their fans United were much more like their old selves at the start of the second half. Another Dunkley header went close before Maguire’s free kick brought a fine save from Burge just before the hour.
To get back into the game United were having to leave one or two gaps at the back but the pace of Marvin Johnson and the deft touches of Dan Crowley gave them new impetus for the final half hour. There were crosses that flew wide of their intended recipient, shots blocked at source but nothing to further trouble Burge after Maguire’s free kick. Coventry had chances, with several efforts fizzing wide, but there was late hope when Crowley smashed the ball home in injury time after a Maguire cross had been half cleared but it was to be just a consolation.
Once again no lack of effort but a worldy and a self-inflicted goal had left the U's too much to do. In the tightest division of them all this is going to be a true season of ups and downs...
Report by Chris Williams, pictures by Darrell Fisher and Steve Daniels, stats by OPTA