Report - Hemel Hempstead 1-1 Oxford City
Sides to do battle again on Tuesday night,
Oxford City capitalised on a slice of good fortune to come back from behind and earn a replay from their trip to Hemel Hempstead Town in the Emirates FA Cup.
The hosts took the lead in the 52nd minute courtesy of Phil Roberts's stunning long-range finish, before substitute Craig Fasanmade's speculative effort from a tight angle crept over the line thanks to a final touch from ex-City goalkeeper Laurie Walker to set up a tense and action packed final 20 minutes.
Mark Jones once again came into the game with the luxury of naming an unchanged starting eleven, the one and only change to his side coming in the form of new signing Kunle Otudeko starting his Oxford City career on the bench.
The Hoops started extremely brightly, passing their way through the opposing midfield with ease, but were the first to be tested at the back as Phil Roberts found the time and space to shoot narrowly wide of Craig King's goal.
The ever-lively Zac McEachran took City's first shot in anger - cutting in from the left to take aim at the far post, only for his effort to deflect behind for a corner.
With a quarter of an hour played, the hosts almost took the lead under the most bizarre of circumstances when an overhit free kick cannoned back off of the bar, connecting with the back of King's head and bouncing safely behind. A free header from a corner should have gone one better in the 23rd minute, but sailed comfortably over the woodwork.
City's best chance of the half fell to the hero of the previous round: Kabby Tshimanga. A long ball over the defence drew Walker off of his line, allowing Tshimanga to steal in and take possession from the goalkeeper. Unfortunately, the striker's momentum took him too far wide to pick out the unmarked Bobson Bawling as the Hemel 'keeper struggled to get back onto his line.
The second half opened with the Hoops looking decidedly out of sorts, an early booking for captain Joe Oastler doing nothing to settle the side.
The Tudors made the most of this period of domination, taking the lead in the 52nd minute. An innocuous looking attack suddenly roared into life as Roberts took aim from long range, his beautifully struck effort swerving into the top corner with such ferocity that King was left rooted.
Rather than galvanising the Hops, the goal reinforced the home side's domination of the half. Mark Jones reacted by making a brave double substitution with Craig Fasanmade and the debuting Kunle Otudeko replacing Bobson Bawling and Kabby Tshimanga.
The change made an immediate impact, the injection of pace provided by Fasanmade's introduction in particular providing the Hemel Hempstead defence with a fresh set of problems to deal with.
It was this pace which brought about the breakthrough the visitors needed when the youngster latched onto a long ball down the left channel. With support failing to arrive in time, Fasanmade was forced to take a shot which was initially blocked by Walker, only for the 'keeper to lose track of the loose ball and scoop it into his own net.
While undoubtedly fortunate, the equaliser caused a revitalised Hoops to begin creating chances once more. The clearest of these involved another deflection of a McEachran shot, this time sending the ball inches wide of the top corner, although the Hoops repeatedly worked the ball into the box only to find a sea of bodies between them and Walker's goal.
Five minutes of added time were not enough to separate the sides, sending the tie to a replay on the 3G at Marsh Lane this coming Tuesday, the 23rd of October.
Oxford City: King, Wiltshire, Jefford, Ashby, Godwin-Malife, Oastler, McEachran, Fleet, Tshimanga (Fasanmade 64), Sinclair, Bawling (Otudeko 64).
Unused: Caro, Jones, Ruddick, Carter, Eze.