There was drama galore as Oxford City and Banbury United played out a thrilling Oxfordshire Senior Cup final, the Hoops coming out on on the right side of a 4-3 scoreline.
The Hoops made hard work of their win, falling behind after just eight minutes and going on to trail 3-1 before Reece Fleet's 90th minute goal capped off a fine comeback.
With Brandon Thomas-Asante having returned to parent club Milton Keynes and Tarik Moore-Azille unavailable due to a head injury, Mark Jones named the strongest side available to him for this season finale. Craig King regained his place in goal, protected by centre halves Ryan Case and Joe Oastler, and fullbacks Eddie Jones and Jack Self. Kyran Wiltshire and Bobson Bawling operated on the wings, flanking the midfield pairing of Reece Fleet and Josh Ashby, with Zac McEachran taking the next step in his return to fitness by supporting lone striker Kabby Tshimanga.
The Hoops got off to a nightmare start when King was sold short by an under-hit backpass, allowing Ricky Johnson to steal in and beat the City 'keeper with ease.
Unfortuantely for the Puritans, their early lead came at a cost as Johnson went on to collide with King – ending the striker's game extremely early.
The notional 'hosts' worked hard to try and recover, but struggled to produce the flowing football which has graced Marsh Lane for large parts of the season. Despite this, Jones almost made the most of one burst forward as his low ball into the box was scrambled clear.
Just after the 15 minute mark, Tshimanga was able to break free of the Banbury defence for the first time but somehow conspired to fire well wide of the far post,
The prolific striker went a little closer when presented with a much more difficult chance, evading both Lee Henderson and Harry Whitehead to take control of the ball in the box and fire just wide on the turn.
The Puritans, however, showed themselves to be an extremely well-drilled outfit and worked hard to frustrate their more prestigious opponents, holding onto their 1-0 lead for the remainder of the half.
Following a brief break and what we presume were some stern words from Mark Jones, the Hoops came out for the second half with a renewed determination.
It took just over a minute for the scores to be levelled, McEachran the man to grab the goal for the second match in a row.
Whilst this one wasn't quite as spectacular as his equaliser against Dartford, it was yet another display of class from the former Puritan as he calmly sold both Henderson and goalkeeper Jack Harding a dummy before firing into the then unguarded net.
Conceding so early could have caused many sides' heads to drop, but Banbury were able to maintain their composure and restore their led within ten minutes. Former Hoop Amer Awadh did well to latch onto George Nash's through ball before seeing his shot take a deflection past Craig King.
The Hoops responded well to falling back behind: Tshimanga firing straight at Harding before McEachran forced the visiting 'keeper into a superb save with a low drive.
But, while the hosts were busy spurning chances at one end, the Puritans busied themselves extending their lead at the other. There was absolutely no doubting the quality of the finish which put them two goals ahead – substitute Greg Kaziboni stunning everybody with an audacious lob which left Craig King with absolutely no chance.
With just 25 minutes remaining to overturn a two goal deficit, City needed a decisive response as soon as possible. Cue another former Puritan in the form of Jack Self – the makeshift fullback joining the attack to support Bawling and seeing his shot take a heavy deflection off of Eddie Odihambo and into the side netting within little more than a minute of the restart.
Mark Jones followed the goal with a substitution – Craig Fasanmade replacing the tiring Zac McEachran to join Tshimanga in attack as the Hoops changed to something more reminiscent of a traditional 4-4-2 formation.
The attacking mindset seemed to have paid off when, in the 77th minute, Fasanmade was felled in the area. The referee, however, was unmoved.
The same could not be said five minutes later when Ashby was adjudged to have been tripped by Matthew Richards. Tshimanga stepped up and made no mistakes, firing home his 37th goal of the season to level the scores oncemore.
With less than 10 minutes remaining, both sides felt like they could win the game without the need for extra time and went in search of a final, fateful goal.
That goal was indeed found, and it came from a man in blue and white. With the Fourth Official's board ready to signal four minutes of added time, a City corner was half cleared to the edge of the area from where Fleet took control of the ball before hammering a vicious effort past a helpless Harding.
The goal could easily have killed the game, but the four minutes which followed proved to be more than a little eventful.
With two minutes of stoppage time already played, King came off of his line to claim a long ball and came off worse in the resulting challenge – requiring a lengthy period of treatment before eventually hobbling off to be replaced by Steven Caro.
The young goalkeeper, who played the entirety of the Hoops' semi final victory over North Leigh, was first tasked with taking a goal kick – earning a yellow card for timewasting as moved the ball to his preferred side of the 6-yard box.
Fortunately for a very nervous City faithful, this was all that was required from the substitute as the Hoops diligently kept possession in the opposing half to see out their dramatic win.
Updated 18:08 - 8 May 2019 by Oxford City FC