Exeter City 2 (Stansfield 29, 36) Oxford Utd 0 TWO goals in seven minutes late in the first half at St James' Park on Sunday night sent a sad-looking Oxford United crashing to their third straight defeat in the Blue Square Premier.

Against their bogey team Exeter, who ended their Wembley play-off dream eight months ago, the U's found their Setanta misery no better under new boss Darren Patterson that it was under previous manager Jim Smith.

This was the eighth time this season that they've been shown on the satellite channel, and they have still yet to win.

They looked shorn of confidence and enthusiasm, and there was little creativity on view.

It was a very lacklustre performance, and not one to win you many friends on TV.

Adam Stansfield fired the Grecians in front in the 29th minute, and from former United striker Steve Basham's classy through pass, the ex-Hereford hit man got his second, dummying Billy Turley before finishing cooly into an empty net.

For Oxford, who had entered the game in 15th place in the table, their lowest position since they dropped out of the Football League, it was desperate stuff at times.

But Rob Duffy went close to pulling a goal back just before half-time with a back-post header which Rob Edwards cleared off the line.

Transfer-listed Duffy got the nod to play up front with Eddie Hutchinson, who was understood to have been in contention to start up front, reporting ill on the day of the match.

Alongside him, teenager Alex Fisher was making his full debut.

Exeter's star striker Jamie Mackie was supposed to have collected a Blue Square player of the month award before kick-off, but was believed to have been told to stay away from the club after his unhappiness at not getting a move.

United were very under-strength with four players missing through suspension, and new striker Craig McAllister sidelined through injury.

Indeed, with Adam Murray one of those banned, this really wasn't Patterson's team.

The two players returning to the side after injury combined in the third minute. Eddie Anaclet delivered a right-wing cross into the box and Danny Rose got in front of a defender to head just past the right post.

Fisher and Duffy both held the ball up well when it was played into them, but the half didn't begin well for the visitors down their left-hand side with Phil Trainer giving the ball away a couple of times and Ben Weedon not at his best.

Exeter forced the game's first corner on 14 minutes and Basham met it with a flicked header, but directed it well wide.

As the half progressed, City gradually got on top. Stansfield lobbed Turley from the left side of the area, but the effort drifted past the far post.

Foster produced a brilliant tackle to dispossess Basham in a dangerous position, but Basham got the better of the centre half when he got to the right bye-line and his low cross struck the outside of the post.

A second passage of good and bad from Foster proved critical in the match just before the half hour. His last-ditch tackle on Wayne Carlisle, after a slip by Ben Weedon, saved a possible goal, but the player who has been so reliable over the past three months was then beaten by Stansfield, who darted past him, advanced and then drove home, the shot going in at the near post off Turley's hand.

The U's keeper, who had been made captain for the night, incurred the displeasure of the home supporters by flattening Basham. He had every right to go for the ball, which he pawed away with his hand on the edge of his six-yard box, but his full weight came down on Basham, who was winded and needed treatment.

And in the 36th minute, the contest was effectively over with Stansfield getting his second. It came after former Exeter player Carl Pettefer lost the ball near the centre circle, and Bash played it quickly forward for the striker, who finished smartly.

Oxford have not recovered a two-goal deficit for a long time, and certainly have not looked like doing it this season, so it looked virtually game over already.

Duffy's header cleared off the line proved a brief moment of hope for the visitors, and there wasn't much to cheer up the long-suffering Oxford fans in the second half.

Alex Jeannin replaced Weedon, to face his old club, and Declan Benjamin and Joel Ledgister followed at regular intervals.

But Stansfield again proved the most likely player to find the net again, going close with a low angled shot past Turley which Foster shepherded past the post.

And Basham hit the post for a second time with a fierce low drive from close range on the right after being superbly picked out by Dean Moxey.

United tried hard to get back into it and changed to 4-3-3 with Anaclet and Rose Exeter might have scored more.

Turley did well to save with his foot from Moxey, otherwise it would have been three.