Mark Jones’ wish came true as the draw was loaded onto the FA website at 1pm sharp on 18th September, matching his side up at home against Leiston: a side that we knew relatively little about at the time of the draw. A quick online search showed that they were based in a small town on the Suffolk coast, quite a journey for City should the tie not be settled in normal time.
It also became clear the threat they were going to pose. They were 2nd in the Isthmian League and were flying high in the league at the time, and would certainly pose a number of different threats that Whitehawk perhaps didn’t in the previous round.
Although the league tables showed City were in a higher division that their Suffolk visitors, in reality there were only 5 league places in the football pyramid separating the two sides.
In the form guide, it suggested Leiston going into the tie as favourites. City were struggling at the time and had just dropped into the bottom three and were clearly shot of confidence heading into the game.
To add further salt to the wounds, Mark Jones had only a straight 11 available from his First Team squad for the fixture, due to a number of injuries and suspensions. This meant that he had to seek help from the Nomads squad, calling four of their players to the bench. Jack Tutton and Sami Khawaja had enjoyed time with the First Team before, however for Marlon Agyakwa and Henry Landers it was their first involvement. Both, however, had impressed for the Nomads on the Tuesday evening, the latter scoring a late 23 minute hatrick for the Hellenic League side.
Jones’ bad luck continued as The Hoops found themselves behind in the opening 5 minutes. A Byron Lawrence effort from outside the box took a cruel deflection off of Godfrey Poku that took it away from a helpless Jack Stevens to give the visitors the lead.
City stayed positive and found themselves on terms within 10 minutes as Ezra Forde, making a rare start, forced a corner that Joe Oastler rose highest to head home; the least that City deserved following an excellent start to the game. This goal settled the game down nicely and, without many clear chances for the rest of the half, the sides went in level at the break.
Joe Oastler brings City back onto terms
The second half begun as the first half ended. The game sprung back to life on the 70 minute mark, sparked, incredibly, by a goalkeeping substitution. Marcus Garnham pulled up injured and Harry Lay-Fulcher came on in his place. This seemed to send a spur on his side as they were able to surge forward and retake the lead, Matt Blake brilliantly finding the corner of the net on the angle from the edge of the box.
This blow somewhat woke up City and they were to dominate the remainder of the match. Just a few moments later a neat interchange of passeson the edge of the visitors' box found it’s to Dave Pearce who sweetly hit a volley into the bottom corner to bring the game back onto terms for the second time. He could have put his side ahead moments later as a rising shot from out of the box had everyone beaten, however struck the cross bar and away on its flight.
As the game was entering added time and a long Tuesday night replay looking exceedingly likely, a moment of magic spared The Hoops' blushes to send them into the next round. Godfrey Poku was able to find Ezra Forde on the edge of the six yard box and, with his back to goal, he was able to catch out the Leiston defence with a backheel into the of the pitch to send the home support into raptures.
Ezra Forde's impressive backheel
The goalscoring didn’t even end there as, while the Suffolk side were desperately searching for an equaliser, The Hoops were able to break and with Rob Sinclair in acres of space on the penalty spot, the midfielder made no mistake to send Oxford City into the Fourth and final Qualifying Round of the FA Cup.
City had somehow incredibly come through after a number of scares to find themselves in the hat for the Fourth Qualifying Round, with the possibility of facing a National League side. Of course everyone was starting the think of the possibility of reaching the First Round Proper and the big boys entering the competition.
Updated 23:01 - 2 Jan 2018 by Oxford City FC
Rob Sinclair rounds off the scoring