Report - Oxford City 4-1 Dartford
City through to the Fourth Qualifying Round
By Ryan Bratley
Oxford City booked their place in the Emirates FA Cup 4th Qualifying Round with a convincing 4-1 victory over Dartford.
Kabby Tshimanga and debutant Bobson Bawling, who joined this week on a short term loan from Torquay United [article link?], were the goalscorers in what was at times a truly dominant display from the Hoops.
Mark Jones made a selection of changes from the side which somehow failed to take points from Hemel Hempstead Town a week prior. Bawling made his first start on the right wing alongside fellow midfielders Rob Sinclair, Zac McEachran, Reece Fleet, and Josh Ashby. Udoka Godwin-Malife returned from a virus to partner Joe Oastler at centre-half whilst question marks over the fitness of right fullback Eddie Jones saw him replaced by Kyran Wiltshire. Ben Jefford retained his place on the left side of the back four whilst the ever-present Craig King lined up in goal. One final change, however, saw Matt Paterson miss out as a result of uncertainty over his future, leaving Kabby Tshimanga to operate as lone striker.
The Hoops started brightly, making the most of the fast surface to establish their preferred passing game, and could have opened the scoring within 10 minutes when McEachran rode a number of challenges to make his way into the box. With the goal looming large in front of him the midfielder's emphatic effort crashed back off of the bar, leaving the woodwork reverberating around a relieved Deren Ibrahim.
It took 20 minutes for the visitors to threaten King's goal, a disappointing effort from Charlie Sheringham easily collected by the City stopper. Fleet looked to go one better at the other end, his effort from outside the area carrying a little more venom but not truly testing Ibrahim.
Two minutes later, the deadlock was broken in somewhat bizarre fashion. McEachran's run down the left and pinpoint ball to the feet of Tshimanga were routine enough, but a good save from Ibrahim forced the striker to improvise – eventually bundling the bouncing ball home from incredibly close range whilst spread-eagle on the floor.
As is so often the case, the goal galvanised the visitors and heralded their best period of the game. Ben Greenhalgh was the first to come within inches of an equaliser, his cross-come-shot from the right looping over King and crashing off of the underside of the bar and falling to Andre Coker whose free header from six yards was woefully directed – landing straight in the City stopper's arms.
Sheringham seemed to have gone one better on the half hour mark as his shot from the left side of the box looked destined for the net, however the quick reactions and smart position of Jefford allowed the young fullback to clear off of the line.
Having survived these scares, the Hoops were able to regain some semblance of control and carried their slender advantage into the break.
The second half started much like the first, Bawling sending a free header comfortably wide as the Hoops settled quickly, but the best was yet to come for the hosts.
Their lead was doubled in the 53rd minute. With the more attack minded members of the midfield swapping around at will, Bawling found himself in a central position from where was able to thread a teasing ball into Tshimanga's path, the striker making no mistakes as he slotted a composed finish under Ibrahim for his second of the game.
As the old addage goes, 2-0 can be the most dangerous lead, so it was a great relief for all in blue and white when Tshimanga not only completed his hattrick but did so in style fewer than 10 minutes later. It was, once again, Bawling who made the goal – another superbly weighted ball into the forward's path setting him free of the defence and forcing Ibrahim to race off of his line. Needing no second invitation, Tshimanga made the most of the situation by lofting a delightful lob over the onrushing 'keeper to make himself the club's top goalscorer in the competition so far.
The goal visibly rocked Dartford, and three became four within a minute. This time, Bawling went from provider to scorer with a well struck effort from the edge of the area which comfortably beat the Dartford 'keeper.
With a four-goal lead and less than half an hour to play, City began to lower the tempo of their game. Mark Jones took the opportunity to give two younger players a welcome runout with a double substitution in the 75th minute: Zac McEachran and Kabby Tshimanga – the two hattrick heroes of the FA Cup so far – making way for Craig Fasanmade and Leon Lobjoit.
If there were any signs of complacency creeping into the Hoops' game, these were quickly erased in the final 10 minutes. Delano Sam-Yorke's speculative effort once again rocked the crossbar in front of the Shed before Elliot Bradbrook's commanding header got the Darts off of the mark in the 82nd minute. The muted celebrations of the players and travelling supporters marked this otherwise impressive finish as the consolation goal it was.
With so little time left on the clock, the three-goal lead was enough for even the most pessimistic City fan to begin cancelling their plans for the 20th of October and the final whistle soon confirmed what was already clear – Oxford City once again making their way into the hat for the Fourth Qualifying Round.
In the meantime, however, the Hoops will next face Concord Rangers at Marsh Lane, the usual 3pm kickoff at Marsh Lane on Saturday the 13th of October. By then, they will know who stands between them and the possibility of another tie against league opposition with the 4th Qualifying Round draw taking place this Monday, the 8th of October.
Oxford City: King, Wiltshire, Jefford, Ashby, Godwin-Malife, Oastler (c), McEachran (Fasanmade 75), Fleet, Tshimanga (Lobjoit 75), Sinclair (Jones 80), Bawling.
Unused: Caro, Ruddick, Eze, Carter.