FOOTBALL is all about highs and lows and Oxford United’s last two games could scarcely have been more different.

Saturday’s brilliant win at Sheffield Wednesday was a high-energy, high-quality performance where every player stood up to be counted.

Ten of those who featured at Hillsborough were on the pitch last night, yet you would not have thought it from a lacklustre display.

Ratings: Every Oxford United player marked out of 10

No disrespect to Stevenage, but the U’s did not need to be that good to beat a team who are 17th in Sky Bet League Two and made four changes themselves.

That was clear during an opening half an hour where they were in complete control, with the visitors barely able to reach the United penalty area.

It was evident in the goal – Cameron Brannagan upped the tempo in one movement, getting the ball back from Joel Cooper and bursting forward.

Every part of that move was clinical, from the positive forward passes, to Mark Sykes’s cross and Dan Agyei’s header.

Even then, the U’s were comfortable without playing particularly well and everything pointed to a professional performance where they would step up a gear on occasion and score a couple more.

Read also: Karl Robinson embarrassed by Stevenage defeat

That clearly was not the case and what looked like a blip at the end of the first half became the norm for the entire second period.

United lost their shape, meaning whenever they gave up possession the Stevenage runners had plenty of space to exploit.

The visitors should have scored before the 76th minute and they passed up several openings, which was a warning for the U’s to tighten up.

They were two poor goals to concede and Simon Eastwood, who had made some important saves to keep United ahead, will be particularly frustrated he was beaten by Jamie Reid’s long-range strike for the equaliser.

HIGHLIGHTS: Watch the key moments here

Several players will be involved against Plymouth next Saturday come what may, but last night was a missed opportunity for some.

It looked like an evening for Agyei to really show his ability, but after a bright start he faded with the rest of the team.

To be completely honest, United do not need this competition – the prize money is minimal until you reach the quarter-finals and other cups have more status, with the chance of facing a higher-division club.

If the U’s do indeed go out in the group stage, it will free up Tuesday nights down the line and keep the squad fresh.

Yet the manner of defeat against Stevenage will rankle, especially with United without a game for the next ten days.