Although the days were starting to close in physically with the clocks going back an hour just under two weeks later; Saturday 16th October was, to everyone involved with Oxford City, easily the longest day of the year, with the draw for the First Round Proper taking place live on the BBC and BT Sport at 7pm.
If that's not bad enough there was then the torturous 15 minute wait at the start of the programme before the balls were then started to be drawn out the bag. In the build-up, I think all involved with City were in agreement that a Football League side home or away would be the perfect draw at this stage in the competition. There was of course the opportunity of the cross-city derby with Oxford United, and rather unbelievably the practice draw did pull out exactly that, The Hoops travelling to the Kassam!
That possibility was quickly extinguished in the proper draw as The U’s were drawn away at Port Vale in one of the first ties out of the hat. City’s number remained in the pot until the twentieth tie. They were pulled out as the away side with an ideal draw, a match against a Football League side in Colchester United.
Everyone was naturally excited with a trip to the Weston Homes Community Stadium, the very rare opportunity to visit a Football League ground with The Hoops, and a rare opportunity to experience the FA Cup First Round. Mark Jones was initially reluctant to look forward to the game with a number of important league fixtures to contend with first. Once those were done with, of course, him and his staff were excited for the occasion: a first for them as a coaching team.
The excitement was building as everyone was congregating at Oxford City on a very busy morning in early November. The day got off to a bad start as a large tournament at the club meant that the team coach was unable to get out of the premises with a number of cars blocking the exit! About 20 minutes, and some mad scrambling for car owners later, all was well as the team and supporters were on their way to the game.
About an hour and a half until kick-off and supporters started to filter into the ground to start soaking up the atmosphere ahead of The Hoops' biggest game for years. With Colchester only opening the main stand for the home supporters, the away fans were housed in the opposite stand, all in one block together.
Once the game got underway, as would have been expected, the hosts started the better of the two sides without threatening too much. Jack Stevens was able to make a couple of early claims in the box to build himself a bit of confidence in the game.
The Hoops were able to carve out some chances of their own, Dave Pearce shooting from distance which forced the keeper into a save, although his effort was probably drifting wide of the post.
Colchester could, and probably should, have scored around the half hour mark. As a corner was whipped in, a header came crashing off the bar, before rebounding and ricocheting off of an attacker and thankfully droppingjust wide of the post.
Less than two minutes later and City had the crossbar rattling themselves. Matt Paterson stood over a free kick just outside of the box, powerfully striking the ball over the wall which had the keeper easily beaten before rattling the bar.
Paterson could have opened the scoring right on the stroke of the interval, a fast paced break saw him surge into the box and, once keeping possession after evading one challenge, his effort with the outside of his boot just went passed the crossbar.
He didn’t have to wait long after the break to play his most crucial part of the game. Barely 30 seconds into the half an excellent challenge from Godfrey Poku found Rob Sinclair who in turn sent Pearce into the box with the ball. The winger crossed to the penalty spot, where Paterson was waiting to head the ball perfectly into the bottom corner with the keeper rooted to the spot. Madness erupted inside the away end, with a number of fans missing the goal having not reappeared from the half time interval!
Colchester were working desperately to find an equaliser following this, and their composure in front of goal let them down as they rarely threatened Jack Stevens between The Hoops' sticks. The City stopper did have to pull off one excellent save on 70 minutes, getting down superbly to push away Ryan Inniss’s goalbound effort.
They looked to have equalised on 86 minutes as a cross goal ball found Mikael Mandron unmarked with his back to goal, his attempted flick somehow passing the post and out for a goal kick.
With increasing numbers of home bodies driving forward, this left them susceptible on the break, Rob Sinclair nearly taking advantage of this as he had a golden chance to seal the result for City. Having driven into the box he managed to turn past his defender and, in very similar style to Paterson at the end of the first half, his effort with the outside of his boot went wide of the post.
The ball was sent straight back up the other end and with a game of head tennis going on in the box, the ball eventually dropped to the edge of the box where Mo Fofana was able to get a foot on the ball and was fouled in the process. The free kick led to the referee sending the away end into raptures with the final whistle.
The result had seen club history written for The Hoops as, after several very close calls in the last few years, they finally beat a Football League side competitively for the first time ever. The run also matched their best ever FA Cup run, drawing level with the run of 1969/70, a year they lost to Swansea Town 5-1.
Another Football League away tie awaits City in the Second Round Proper as they travel to Notts County on Saturday. Will it be a case of London Busses for The Hoops with their second Football League scalp quickly following the first?
Find out on Saturday!
Updated 23:01 - 2 Jan 2018 by Oxford City FC