FOURTH QUALIFYING ROUND: Oxford United 2 Hayes & Yeading United 0
A rueful Garry Haylock was left to reflect on what might have been after Hayes & Yeading United failed to take advantage of several first half chances to cause an upset away to Conference Premier outfit Oxford United.
The visitors caused Oxford plenty of problems and could easily have reached the break a couple of goals to the good, only for the home side to roar back in the second period.
Oxford needed a slice of luck to beat an inspired Delroy Preddie for their first goal and in the end it was only down to the keeper as well as Oxford's woeful finishing that H&Y did not end up on the end of a hiding.
"We needed to get our noses in front while we were creating chances," admitted Haylock. "We needed something to defend to be able to withstand the pressure because while I think our fitness levels are quite good for our level, there's a big difference against a full-time club.
"I think we played pretty well in the first half but our problem was sustaining the effort over 90 minutes and that's been the problem all year."
The pattern for the first half was set straight away as the H&Y defence, with Tom Cadmore back at its heart, held a high line and tried to catch James Con-stable and Jamie Guy, on loan from Shrewsbury and Colchester respectively, offside, using Preddie as some insurance.
It was a dangerous ploy against the powerful and pacy Constable, who was put through early on by a long ball but the England C squad member could not finish the opportunity.
Meanwhile H&Y produced the better passing game and could have taken the lead when Ram Marwa had a free header from six yards following a fine run and cross by Danny Allen-Page, but he was unable to keep it down.
Within a minute there was an even better opening when the visitors broke from defending a corner, Josh Scott and Will Hendry carried the ball which Hendry spread right to James Mulley, and his cross was bundled home by Scott but he was flagged offside in what must have been a very close decision.
Hendry arguably chose the wrong option because he also had Steven Gregory in the clear on the left.
Cadmore made several vital blocks to snuff out any Oxford danger before his side was handed another great chance by home keeper Billy Turley.
Turley kicked the ball straight into the back of Kieran Knight but it would not come down quickly enough for the striker to shoot and Hendry curled his subsequent effort wide.
There was one more good opportunity of the half, and almost the last in the game for H&Y, when Scott raced down the left to collect Hendry's pass, stepped inside the last man but placed his shot too close to Turley.
Oxford's one-dimensional approach to the period almost paid off late in the half but Preddie denied Constable on both occasions.
It was a different story after the break, however, as Constable and Luke Foster went close as Preddie flapped at a corner and in the 57th minute Constable's chest pass set Guy free.
Matt Ruby slid in to block his shot but the ball ballooned up and over the helpless Preddie to give Oxford a priceless advantage.
It was one-way traffic for a while and only Preddie and Oxford themselves prevented a rout after four more golden opportunities went begging within only five minutes.
Preddie saved at Constable's feet and denied Guy with a miraculous onehanded stop while lying on the ground, before Lewis Haldane and Constable blazed horribly wide.
H&Y's 259 travelling fans, who made up 10 per cent of the 2,521 total, tried manfully to raise their side and Knight was a whisker away from granting their wish.
Preddie launched a long ball down the middle, Oxford let it bounce and Knight typically made a nuisance of himself to first seize possession and having wriggled the wrong side of James Clarke he seemed to be hauled back, although the referee was unconvinced.
Within 60 seconds it was all over because Guy once again latched on to a long ball and his low cross was turned in by Constable.
Haylock switched to 3-4-3 to chase the game but the visitors never looked likely to succeed and as they left ever more gaps at the back it was again only Preddie's heroics and Oxford's profligacy, which may explain why they are languishing 17th in the Blue Square Premier despite being among the pre-season favourites, that meant four more excellent chances went begging.