Report - Oxford City 1-2 Hereford
City succumb to early Trophy exit at the hands of Hereford
By Ryan Bratley
Oxford City fell at the first hurdle of their Buildbase FA Trophy campaign, slipping to a narrow 2-1 defeat at the Hands of phoenix club Hereford.
The visitors had to come back from a goal down thanks to Freddie Grant's header, equalising through John Mills before Dara O'Shea hit the winner just after the hour mark.
With next Saturday's historic FA Cup tie in mind, Mark Jones made some signifiant changes to his side. Lee Henderson missed out through injury whilst Rob Sinclair made the next step in his recovery from a dead leg by returning to the bench. Matt Paterson was rested alongside the unavailable Reece Fleet, and Cristian Navarro who came into the game on four bookings. This all meant that Jack Stevens continued in goal, protected by Joe Oaster and Godfrey Poku with Christian Oxlade-Chamberlain and Freddie Grant at full back. Jack Tutton was given a well-earned opportunity to start in midfield alongside Mo Fofana while Eddie Jones occupied the position vacated by Poku. Finally, Dave Pearce and Zac McEachran ook to the wings with Ezra Forde the long striker.
The Hoops began the game shooting towards the clubhouse and started brightly, a long diagonal ball picking out McEachran to warm the hands of the visiting goalkeeper. Forde was also given a chance to start finding his range early on as he found the side netting following McEachran's through ball.
Hereford's first sight of goal arrived in the 8th minute with Lance Smith heading over. The next attack held far more promise, patient buildup from the left resulting in a low ball across goal which the defence did well to scramble behind. The resulting corner saw Jamie Bird presented with two opportunities to shoot with the midfielder failing to get hold of either.
Two minutes later, a corner at the other end saw City take the lead. Grant was the somewhat unlikely goalscorer, rising above his marker at the far post to head back across goal with enough power to beat both goalkeeper Martin Horsell and Rob Purdie on the line.
Hereford set about looking for an equaliser and almost found it as a far post corner was headed back across goal but failed to beat Jones on the line. The visitors' disappointment did not last long, however, as they found the leveller in the 20th minute.
The experienced John Mills did superbly to break through the offside trap and, with the defence preoccupied with fruitless appeals to the officials, took his time to slot past Stevens at his near post.
The end-to-end nature of the game continued with Poku making a vital tackle of the edge of the area before Forde saw his early shot blocked in spectacular style. Oastler was then on hand to block Keyon Refell's shot at point blank range after Adam Page's low cross picked out the striker.
With two minutes of added time to be played, there was still time for both sides to threaten. First, Pearce's battling run down the left saw Jones' long range effort deflected narrowly over the bar before a long ball allowed Smith to show Grant a clean set of heels. Bursting clear down the right, the forward looked to pick out Mills at the far post but saw his overhit cross evade the goalscorer.
The second period began with both sides shooting towards their own fans and Hereford looked to take advantage first, striking the inside of the post with their first effort of the half.
The Hoops, meanwhile, looked to re-establish their lead and went close as McEachran picked out the run of Jones. With time and space to spare on the edge of the area Jones opted to shoot early, finding only the side netting.
The visitors took the lead in the 62nd minute thanks to a free kick on the right wing. The whipped delivery found O'Shea in the box, rising highest to divert the ball beyond Stevens.
McEachran came desperately close to restoring parity within minutes of the goal, wining the ball in the final third before seeing Horsell save his low effort with his legs.
Mark Jones looked to take the game by the scruff of the neck with a bold triple change; Rob Sinclair, Matt Paterson and Cristian Navarro replacing Jack Tutton, Ezra Forde and Dave Pearce respectively.
With Hereford understandably looking to protect their lead, the closing stages lacked drama. McEachran once again chanced his arm from range, seeing Horsell gather at the second attempt, before Oxlade-Chamberlain pushed forwards to win The Hoops a late corner.
With Stevens lurking in the box, Sinclair's delivery instead found Oastler at the near post from where his powerful header was hacked off of the line by Purdie.
The final whistle spelled the end of City's short-lived time in the competition but, with next Saturday's televised FA Cup game just around the corner, there will be no time to dwell on the result.