Des Buckingham feels heavy schedule caught up with Oxford

By Sports Desk April 19, 2024

Oxford boss Des Buckingham felt the heavy schedule of three games in six days took its toll on his team as they were held 1-1 by Stevenage at the Kassam Stadium.

It means it is effectively no longer in Oxford’s hands to reach the League One play-offs because Lincoln are three points behind them with a game in hand and a superior goal difference.

Buckingham felt the decision not to award the U’s a penalty when Marcus Browne appeared to have been fouled by keeper Craig MacGillivray in the first half was crucial.

They had to come from behind as Stevenage went in front through a Sam Long own goal in the 32nd minute, Cameron Brannagan replying from the penalty spot on 58 minutes when Carl Piergianni fouled Ruben Rodrigues – though that appeared to have been outside the box.

Buckingham said: “To play three games in six days is a big ask.

“We had 26 shots but couldn’t get that second goal we needed.

“There was a clear penalty not given in the first half, and for us that’s the second game in a row that one hasn’t been given when it should have been. It was a huge moment in the game, and very frustrating.

“The referee told me he couldn’t see it, but the linesman was only 15 yards away and had a clear view.

“I’m delighted with the performance but ultimately we’ve got just the four points from these three home games, now we need to make sure we prepare right and get three in the last one at Exeter.

“When we looked to rearrange the Lincoln game we chose this week because it was a free week, then Sky told us they wanted to bring this Stevenage one forward and show it on the Friday night which meant three games in six days.

“There was nothing we could do about it, but had we known they were going to do that, we would have played the Lincoln game another week.

“It’s going to be a tight finish – I wouldn’t rule out Blackpool either, and they’ve got to play Barnsley.”

Stevenage had lost manager Steve Evans in the week, with Evans heading north to become Rotherham boss.

Caretaker boss Alex Revell said: “Steve always had two clubs very much in his heart – this one and Rotherham. Believe me, making the decision was probably the hardest thing he’s had to do, he said.

“I wanted to take today and make the players ready. I really enjoyed it because they gave everything.

“I’m very proud of what the lads did tonight.

“We had a great day yesterday in terms of training and getting ready and trying to get a few bits into them.

“They came to a really tough place and worked so hard for each other.

“In spells we created some half-chances, probably not enough, but it was about showing our togetherness as a club and our spirit.

“I think we showed why we have caused teams problems this season, especially with our energy and our workrate.

“The first penalty shout against us was a penalty and should have been given so we got away with that.

“But it doesn’t mean that something that started outside the box should be a penalty. Two wrongs don’t make a right.”

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