OXFORD United’s inconsistent season continued as they crashed to a sloppy defeat at Sky Bet League One strugglers Coventry City.

Just three days after beating high-flying Bradford City, Michael Appleton’s men were unable to get anywhere close to the same performance level.

There was no doubting the quality of Ben Stevenson’s strike which opened the scoring, but the visitors were plagued throughout by their own errors.

Lots of small mistakes were a hindrance, before a huge one gifted Marvin Sordell a second goal just before the break when Phil Edwards and Simon Eastwood got in an almighty mix-up.

United huffed and puffed in search of a way back into the game, but lacked the potency in attacking areas to trouble City, who held on for only their second league win of the season.

It was a huge shame for the impressive turnout of 2,137 away fans who made a racket at the Ricoh Arena without any reward until Dan Crowley’s late consolation.

The one change to United’s line-up was enforced.

Kane Hemmings replaced the injured Wes Thomas, while Liam Sercombe was fit enough to return on the bench.

Coventry went into the game four points from safety at the bottom of the division, but they looked anything but a struggling side.

Eastwood was called into action after only 70 seconds to deny Sordell as the hosts made an assured start.

Daniel Agyei was also thwarted by the U’s goalkeeper as the Sky Blues began on the front foot.

United were backed by an impressive away following, but aside from one Chris Maguire shot parried by Lee Burge they did not have anything to really shout about until midway through the first half.

Chey Dunkley rose to head a Maguire corner against the crossbar, which rebounded to Ryan Taylor, whose shot was blocked for Charlie Raglan to have an effort deflected behind.

It was the first of four successive corners for the visitors, which was met with a roar of approval from the travelling support.

Unfortunately, that spell was as good as it got for a side who squandered possession cheaply.

It happened once too often when John Lundstram’s pass for the overlapping Edwards was cut out on 28 minutes.

United cleared the initial cross, but it fell to Stevenson 25 yards out, where the midfielder unleashed a thunderbolt which left Eastwood grasping at thin air.

It was just the break for which City had hoped and they went on to look by far the more dangerous of the two sides.

A shot from Hemmings which trickled well wide was the best the visitors could manage in the run up to the break, where it looked like they could at least regroup.

But if the U’s could hold their hands up to a fantastic strike for the first goal, City’s second on the stroke of half-time was of entirely their own making.

A hopeful through ball led to a mix-up at the back, which saw Edwards nod the ball past an onrushing Eastwood.

Sordell could not believe his luck and gratefully tapped into the unguarded net.

United desperately needed a response after the restart, and when it failed to arrive Marvin Johnson was quickly introduced.

Maguire had a well-struck free-kick smartly saved, but otherwise Burge was not stretched.

While Appleton’s men were playing with more purpose, sloppy errors and a desperate lack of quality in the final third hampered their efforts to get back into the game.

Given Coventry’s lowly position, pulling a goal back would have sent nerves jangling.

But as the half wore on that proposition looked less likely.

In fact, far from holding on and seeing out time, City finished the game looking for more goals.

Sordell and Kyel Reid came close to making it 3-0, before Crowley fired home in the 92nd minute.

It was too little, too late for United, who were unable to fashion a chance for an equaliser in the remaining seconds.

Coventry City (4-3-3): Burge, Sterry, Willis, Turnbull, Page, Stevenson, McCann, Bigirimana, Lameiras (Reid 80), Agyei (Tudgay 74), Sordell.

Unused subs: Charles-Cook, Ricketts, Gadzhev, Jones, Wright.

Booked: Stevenson, Sterry.

Oxford Utd (4-4-2): Eastwood, Edwards, Raglan, Dunkley, Ruffels, MacDonald, Rothwell, Lundstram, Taylor, Maguire, Hemmings.

Subs used: Johnson (MacDonald 55), Crowley (Taylor 67), T Roberts (Hemmings 78).

Unused subs: Buchel, Long, Nelson, Sercombe.

Booked: Taylor, Ruffels.

Referee: Robert Jones (Merseyside).

Attendance: 9,912 (2,137 visitors).