Shortly after 1pm on Monday 4th September, a number of Oxford City fans were discussing, with mixed feelings, a second trip to Brighton in just over a month. Little did they know, or were expecting, the run that The Hoops were about to embark on.
Prior to this season, the Enclosed Ground in Whitehawk was rather a bogey ground for City, falling to two 3-0 defeats in the two completed league games at the Stadium. To add salt to the wounds, their first trip there was abandoned at half time due to a floodlight failure even though, typically, the floodlights were in perfect working order 5 minutes after the decision!
City did end their poor run at the ground in August, however, as they dealt out a 3-0 defeat of their own to Whitehawk: three first half goals doing the damage to register their first league points of the campaign.
Going into this game, Whitehawk were the division’s bottom club having picked up just two points from their 11 league fixtures. City, meanwhile, had hit a poor run as they were winless in a month and were hovering just above the drop zone.
As the fans were congregating behind the Sea End goal at just before 3pm on Saturday 16th September, there was cautious optimism about progressing through to the Third Qualifying Round. The Hawks, however, had made a number of significant changes in the week leading up to this game with a number of new players as well as the return of legendary manager Steve King. The City contingent were all too aware of how often managerial changes sees a upturn of form!
The opening 25 minutes seemed to back that statement up as the hosts started the brighter of the two sides and controlled possession for the majority of this spell. It was, however, City who had the ball in the net first: Zac McEachran bundling a Matt Paterson cross over the line. The linesman, however, adjudged the ball to have gone out of play first, and so it remained goalless.
The Hawks' pressure paid off just before the half hour mark as Enoch Andoh brilliantly put them ahead. Michael Cain split the defence with a ball directly between both centre backs for Andoh to pick up before curling the ball into the top corner from the edge of the D to put them deservedly ahead.
This setback sprung City into action and they were able to control the game from then on in. It was in fact only three minutes later that they were level. Reece Fleet earned possession on the edge of the box, his shot taking a wicked deflection off of Sean Roddy before looping over Simon Jorgensen in The Hawks goal to bring the scores level.
Reece Fleet shoots from range to bring City back onto level terms.
McEachran had the half’s remaining two key chances, the first forcing an excellent save from Jorgensen with a powerful shot from the right hand side of the box. The second brought his first goal of the game: the midfielder found himself in the right place at the right time as Rob Sinclair headed across goal to find him unmarked with a simple task of tapping home from just under 2 yards out.
Rob Sinclair heads across goal for Zac McEachran to finish
After a shaky start and going a goal down, The Hoops rally following the wake-up call had seen them go into the break 2-1 up.
McEachran put the game all but beyond doubt just four minutes into the second period. Matt Paterson was able to cut the ball back from the right hand side of the box to find him unmarked giving an easy finish to grab his second of the game.
Zac McEachran finishes for his second of the game
He continued to be involved with most of City’s chances and could have grabbed a hattrick on the hour. His run into the box from a very tight angle caught out the Hawks defence, and his fierce shot ricocheted off the crossbar, straight to Paterson, whose blocked shot found the offside Reece Fleet.
The Hoops were then happy to settle for a two-goal lead and saw out the remaining half an hour with relative ease to make sure their name was in the hat for the Third Qualifying Round.
The result came as a relief to Mark Jones who was happy to see his side hold on to a lead after seeing a number disappear over the previous weeks. He was also pleased with his side’s reaction at going a goal down:
“At 1-0 down you start thinking ‘oh here we go’ but the lads showed great character and I felt that we were worthy winners, as we had a few hit the bar and cleared off the line. But we’ve come down here and done the job as it is always a long trek down here!”
When asked about the draw, Mark was keen for a home draw, without naming any team specifically. With the National League sides coming in a round later, he was keen to make it through to the Fourth Qualifying Round to earn a chance of potentially being drawn against higher level opposition.
Meanwhile, the only reaction from the supporters leaving the ground were, ‘Who’s next?’
Updated 21:32 - 3 Dec 2017 by Oxford City FC
Tomorrow: Seconds from Disaster!