The Sports, playing competitively for the first time in 21 days, had Charley Kendall to thank after a brace from the young forward proved decisive at Velocity Stadium.
After going into the break two goals to the good, Borough managed to keep City at arm’s length for majority of the second period to kick off the new year with not only three points, but a clean sheet to boot.
Danny Bloor made two changes from the last starting XI at Slough in the FA Trophy on December 18, with Joel Rollinson and Jaden Perez replacing Jake Elliott and Dom Hutchinson – the latter producing a positive Covid-19 test on Friday night. There was also a place on the bench for goalkeeper Conor Manderson after the youngster joined on loan from Portsmouth in the week.
Oxford came out the blocks quickly, forcing a succession of early corners but it was the Sports who went ahead inside ten minutes. A ball was pumped down the right hand side and Kendall showed great pace to beat the advancing Kie Plumley to the ball before cutting back inside the area and firing into the empty net.
The goal seemed to galvanize Borough, with Rollinson firing just wide of the bottom corner after a great pass from Perez before Kendall saw a first time effort go the wrong side of the far post.
Lee Worgan was then forced into action, making a smart save to deny Josh Ashby and then sticking out a foot to keep out Lewis Coyle’s low effort before City should have really drawn level five minutes before the break.
Coyle did well to make room for a shot on the edge of the box which Worgan could only parry and the ball fell to Elliot Benyon ten yards out, but with the goal gaping he could only skew his effort wide.
And the Sports took advantage as they went into half time having doubled their lead. Kendall took on Dan Matsuzaka before he created space for the shot and he released a spectacular shot which picked out the top corner from outside the area, leaving Plumley a mere spectator.
Luke Nippard did well to clear the ball away under pressure from Ashby after Coyle played the ball across the six yard box as Oxford came out looking to get back into the game, with Worgan thwarting Benyon on the hour mark with a good save to keep out the striker’s header.
Kendall almost grabbed his hat-trick but was denied by a strong hand from the diving Plumley, and it was the Sports who fared the better as the half wore on. Borough’s defence restricted much of City’s forward play as the hosts looked to get back into the game.
With seven minutes to go, Worgan was again on hand to deny the hosts. Joe Iaciofano did well to cut inside from the right before seeing his low drive turned around the far post by the diving keeper before the Sports #1 did well to beat away an effort from Ewan Clark.
And in the end it was Borough who almost added a third, with Worgan’s long drop kick playing through Kendall in search of his hat-trick, but his low drive was pushed wide of the goal by the diving Plumley.
Overall, a great performance from the Sports – who are still without key players Mitch Dickenson and Chris Whelpdale – and plenty to take forward into the second half of the season.