By Ryan Bratley
This weekend's game needs no introduction but, seeing as occasions such as this don't come around all that often, it seems only right to luxuriate in this most high-profile of games.
Oxford City continue their extraordinary Emirates FA Cup campaign this Saturday as they head to Notts County's Meadow Lane to fight for a place in the third round. The Hoops go into the game with the hopes of the county resting on their shoulders and undoubtedly the support of almost every neutral who switches on their TV set for this early kickoff.
This tie exists is a sea of superlatives: Notts County have the honour of being the oldest club in the Football League and the FA Cup is of course renowned as the world's oldest (and best) football competition. As if this weren't enough to whet the appetite, we also mustn't forget that The Hoops have come through four games to get here, beating Football League opposition for the first time in their 135 year history as they triumphed over Colchester United in the first round.
Notts County are currently flying high in League Two, second only to a free-scoring Luton Town side. The Magpies boast an exceptional home record, having only come out second best at Meadow Lane twice in 2017, and the odd comfort certainly won't have hurt them as they breezed past League One side Bristol Rovers in the previous round. It wasn't all plain sailing for the hosts, Rovers needing only 11 minutes to race into a 2-0 lead, but a quickfire brace from Ryan Yates levelled the scores around the half hour mark. Veteran striker John Stead completed the comeback in the 58th minute before Jorge Grant put the game beyond doubt in the 6th minute of added time.
The Hoops can boast their own 4-2 victory en route to the second round; a thrilling game against Isthmian Premier side Leiston (Click here to relive) which will live long in the memory thanks to Ezra Forde's sublime stoppage time backheel. The two rounds which followed didn't quite live up to this game in terms of the number of goals scored, but both of Matt Paterson's goals in the 1-0 victories over Bognor Regis Town and Colchester United respectively are worth watching again and again.
The cup run has also inspired an upturn in City's league form with victories against Chelmsford City and Wealdstone coming immediately after their last outing. These wins, coupled with a hard fought 0-0 draw at Bognor Regis, have seen The Hoops poke their heads back above the relegation zone, although this has made little dent in the 64 league places separating the two sides.
But this is the FA Cup. Every place between two sides is another ounce of pressure on the Goliath to our David – a fact not lost on Notts County player/manager Kevin Nolan. Speaking in his pre-game press conference, the opposing boss admitted that his side face a 'tough test' but remained confident in the professionalism of his squad:
“They [Oxford City] are going to raise their game, they're going to enjoy the fact that its their time in the spotlight.
“For me its about our attitude, its about our application, its about our belief in what we do. If we do what we do, I believe we'll have more than enough.”
Mark Jones, meanwhile, remained cautiously optimistic about the chances of lightning striking twice:
“The lads are in a good place. Since the Colchester United game we've had some good performances.
“We'll certainly need to be at our best. Notts County are a good side at the top of League Two, a lot of experience in their team, so it's going to be a tough one for us but we said that before we played Colchester and all of the lads were tremendous.”
There are a limited number of coach seats still available on a 'first come, first served' basis, price at £15, with tickets for the game itself available on arrival at Meadow Lane. Coaches will depart from the club at 8:30.
The game itself will be broadcast on BT Sport, 12:30 kickoff, and any fans not able to travel are invited to watch from the clubhouse. With drinks on offer at £2 a pint until the first goal is scored, its definitely the next best thing to being at the game!
Updated 23:01 - 2 Jan 2018 by Oxford City FC