HOPES that Oxford United had turned the corner and would make a strong push for the play-offs in the second half of the season seemed over-optimistic after a hugely disappointing performance at the Kassam Stadium on Tuesday night.

They were unable to follow up their resounding win over Altrincham and were beaten by an injury-hit Weymouth side that had lost six and drawn one of their previous seven Blue Square Premier games.

The U's suffered a big blow as new striker Craig McAllister limped off on 28 minutes with a hamstring injury.

That knocked the stuffing out of them, but shouldn't excuse them completely as they reverted to the ineffective attacking force they have been for much of the season.

Weymouth grabbed victory with a goal late in the first half that came from a controversially-awarded corner.

It was the first home defeat in the league under Darren Patterson and a massive setback to United's hopes of reaching the play-offs.

Skipper Barry Quinn returned to central defence after his one-match ban, with Michael Corcoran dropping down to the bench.

Weymouth had not won for seven matches but they made a good start and were the first to threaten when Wilfried Domoraud burst into the box and Billy Turley had to be alert to save.

McAllister made sure he wasn't going to give up a lost cause by hustling for the ball when goalkeeper Jason Matthews was trying to shepherd it out for a goal kick, earning his team their first corner. Phil Trainer whipped it in low and Weymouth struggled to defend it in the swirling wind.

But on 16 minutes the Terras were very unfortunate not to take the lead. Centre half Scott Doe met a free-kick from the left with a powerful header, which beat Turley but came back off the bar.

Moments later at the other end, and with the home fans in excellent voice, United's two strikers combined superbly.

Rob Duffy nodded the ball on and McAllister, in trying to lob the ball over Matthews, got too much on it and sent it high over the bar.

Oxford hadn't conceded a goal at home in the league since October 11, though the way their defence was so hesitant that was hard to believe. Twice in quick succession the U's got away with giving the visitors far too much space in the penalty area.

There was a blow for the home side as McAllister had to go off injured when, just after getting a kick on the leg, he appeared to pull his hamstring. He was replaced by Carl Pettefer and that meant Joel Ledgister going up front alongside Duffy.

Trainer was brought down just outside the area and Alex Jeannin struck the free-kick well, but he too saw it strike the bar.

Weymouth took the lead six minutes before half-time, and it came from a controversially awarded corner.

Referee Andy Hendley, who until then had had a good game, I thought, pointed for a flag kick to the visitors when everyone in the Oxford Mail Stand was convinced it should have been a goal kick.

United didn't defend James Couuts's corner well, Doe headed against the underside of the bar, and as they failed to clear the dropping ball, Gavin McCallum forced it over the line from close range.

It seemed, by the way the U's players came back out so much later than Weymouth, that they had been given a real rollicking by Darren Patterson and Mickey Lewis at half-time, but there wasn't a massive improvement in the second half.

Trying to play a passing game in the strong wind was never going to be easy, but with their nopponents often getting eight players behind the ball, they quickly ran out of ideas.

Alex Fisher came on to add a bit more goal threat, and James Clarke took over from Matt Day, who had never really got going.

Fisher put himself about well, and produced one slick turn but his left-footed shot sliced across the face of goal.

As United pushed forward in desperate search of an equaliser, with three up front, it was Weymouth who started to look dangerous on the counter-attack.

Turley parried an effort from McCallum and the U's keeper had to make a spectacular one-handed save to his right to keep out an angled shot from Sido Jombarti after a wayward pass from Adam Murray, back helping out his defence.

In injury time, Turley even ventured forward at a corner to try to get a leveller, but it just wasn't Oxford's night.