Report - Oxford City 4-2 Leiston
The Hoops leave it late
By Ryan Bratley
Oxford City left it incredibly late to book their place in the 4th Qualifying Round of the FA Cup, coming back from behind twice to beat Leiston in a thrilling finale.
Leiston, currently unbeaten in the Isthmian League Premier Division, came into the game just 5 league places behind The Hoops and looked set to force a replay before stoppage time goals from Ezra Forde and Rob Sinclair won the game in spectacular fashion.
Mark Jones once again came into the game with a depleted squad as Freddie Grant, Christian Oxlade-Chamberlain, Reece Fleet and Lee Henderson all missed out. This led the City gaffer to call upon a number of up-and-coming youngsters from the Oxford City Nomads: the familiar faces of Sami Khawaja and Jack Tutton returning to the squad whilst winger Marlon Agyakwa and prolific forward Henry Landers both looked forward to potential debuts from the bench.
Jack Stevens lines up in goal behind a central defensive pairing of Joe Oastler and captain Godfrey Poku with Eddie Jones and Cristian Navarro operating as full backs. Mamadou Fofana, Rob Sinclair and Zac McEachran made up the midfield with Ezra Forde and Dave Pearce on the wings, all supporting lone striker Matt Paterson.
The Hoops seemed to have got off to a strong start but they were dealt a blow after 5 minutes as Leiston took the lead. An innocuous effort from Byron Lawrence took a cruel deflection off of Poku, taking it beyond the helpless Stevens in the City goal.
The visitors could and possibly should have doubled their lead in the 9th minute as they won the ball in the City box, the resulting effort forcing a good reflex save from Stevens.
City were able to keep playing their preferred passing game and quickly began making headway. Delicate interplay down the right wing saw a cross narrowly beat the head of Forde before the striker got onto a neat through-ball down the right channel. With the 'keeper rushing out, Forde took his shot first time and earning a corner which Oastler rose highest to convert at the near post.
The equaliser brought about a slow period of the game with the Leiston defence largely keeping the patient City attack at bay. Sinclair's trickery looked the most likely source of a goal and the cultured midfielder almost bagged himself an assist when his mazy run and pass put Paterson through on goal. Unfortunately, Paterson's effort was matched by an excellent save from Marcus Garnham whose outstretched left hand had the strength to push the ball wide.
The second half began with a huge blow for City as Paterson was forced off by a head injury sustained before the break. Jack Tutton was the man to replace him, forcing Ezra Forde into a more advanced role.
Leiston continued to show some threat and came close to retaking the lead in the 50th minute, Christy Finch lining up a shot from the edge of the area which passed harmlessly wide of Stevens's left post.
City, meanwhile, looked to make further inroads from crosses. A short corner routine saw Tutton rise to glance a header narrowly wide of goal before McEachran's cross was hooked goalwards by Pearce but lacked the power to beat Garnham in the Leiston goal.
It was then the visitors' turn to be forced into a change as Garnham pulled up with a leg injury in the 69th minute, substitute 'keeper Harry Lay-Fulcher coming on in his place.
If Leiston had any concerns about their defensive solidity in the light of the substitution these were somewhat allayed in the 74th minute as they retook the lead through Matt Blake. The lively forward raced onto a ball down the right channel and produced an excellent, first time finish into the far corner of the net.
The goal worked to reinvigorate City who had, in the minutes before the goal, looked somewhat flat in attack. It took only a few minutes for the response to come: a quick free kick being worked to Jones on the right wing, his cross falling loose to Pearce who produced a neat half volley to plant the ball beyond Lay-Fulcher. It looked as though Pearce had given The Hoops the lead a minute later when he shot from the edge of the area, only to see his effort bounce off the bar.
With the scores level and a lengthy midweek trip to East Suffolk looking increasingly likely, The Hoops almost fell behind for a third time. The defence failed to fully clear a free kick, the resulting cross dropping to goalscorer Blake who blazed over from less than six yards.
With 5 minutes of added time signalled by the officials, this letoff was not put to waste. Godfrey Poku raced forward from defence, working tirelessly on the right wing to put the ball into the box. City reaped the benefits of this hard graft when Forde received the ball with his back to goal and slotted home a sublime backheel in the 91st minute to send the home fans into raptures.
Leading the game for the first time and with just four minutes to be played, City could have parked the bus. However, when Sinclair intercepted a long ball on the half way line and found Forde the striker made his way into the box, holding the ball up before finding Sinclair at the far post for a routine tap-in which sealed The Hoops' place in the hat.
The draw for the 4th Qualifying Round will take place on Monday the 2nd of October at 1pm with teams from the National League Premier joining the competition at this stage. City's cup progress means that their scheduled trip to Bognor Regis Town will now be rescheduled with new dates being announced as soon as possible.
Oxford City: Stevens, Jones, Navarro, Fofana, Poku, Oastler, Forde, Sinclair, Paterson (Tutton 48) McEachran, Pearce.
Unused subs: Khawaja, Agyakwa, Landers