Report - Oxford City 5-0 Hemel Hempstead
City through to a second consecutive First Round appearance
Oxford City booked their place in the FA Cup First Round Proper and a trip to EFL League Two side Tranmere Rovers with an emphatic 5-0 victory over Hemel Hempstead Town.
The result doesn't fully reflect the nature of the game: City coming out of a cagey first half with a 1-0 lead thanks to Reece Fleet's scrappy effort in the 20th minute and struggling to assert themselves after the break until Rob Sinclair doubled their lead just before the hour mark. Efforts from Craig Fasanmade, Kyran Wiltshire, and another from Sinclair in the closing 20 minutes gave an air of comfort to an otherwise hard-earned victory.
Thanks to Kabby Tshimanga passing a late fitness test, Mark Jones was able once again to name a largely unchanged side: Eddie Jones' inclusion at the expense of Bobson Bawling the only alteration.
With so much at stake, it was no surprise that both sides found it difficult to settle down during the initial stages. Zac McEachran eventually took the first shot in anger after 10 minutes, finding the target but lacking the power or placement required to beat Laurie Walker.
A second effort shortly after the first, this time picking up the pieces from a cleared corner, passed safely over the bar.
It was, however, a corner which gave the Hoops the breakthrough they needed in the 20th minute. Udoka Godwin-Malife's initial header was cleared off of the line, however the ensuing melee was eventually brought to an end as Fleet guided the ball home.
Josh Ashby came close to doubling the lead with a dipping drive from range which just failed to find the target.
Hemel began to regroup and arguably should have been level going into the break: Steve Cawley and Phil Roberts both putting good chances comfortably over the bar.
The opening stages of the second half painted what was, from the home side's point a view, a fairly bleak picture of what may be to come. Despite Tshimanga testing Walker with a shot from a tight angle, the bulk of the action was in and around Craig King's box.
The City stopper was called into action tipping a 52nd minute free kick over the bar, but was left largely at the mercy of his defence as the Tudors peppered the goal area with crosses, looking almost certain to score sooner rather than later.
This pressure, however, presented opportunities on the break. With the defence struggling to clear their lines reliably, Sinclair and McEachran pounced on a rare opportunity to get forward with a swift one-two which allowed the former to get in behind the defence. With Walker off of his line quickly, the experienced midfielder showed typically quick feet to round the former City 'keeper and slot home from a tricky angle.
The goal was a huge blow to Hemel Hempstead but, with 30 minutes remaining, there was plenty of time to get back into the game.
The Hoops, of course, refused to sit back and defend their lead. Mark Jones' decision to repeat the substitution which brought about an equaliser in the initial fixture - Kabby Tshimanga making way for Craig Fasanmade - bore fruit once more.
In scenes eerily similar to Saturday, Walker once again played a key role in a City goal as his poor kick picked out a blue and white shirt. Fasanmade reacted fastest, latching onto a through ball to get in behind and face the 'keeper one on one, slotting a calm and composed finish into the back of the net to put the Hoops into a 3-0 lead.
With the visitors well and truly on the back foot and tempers beginning to fray amongst the Hemel backline, the Hoops once again remained positive and went in search of more goals.
The Tudors, however, were willing to throw everything they had at the City goal and were almost rewarded almost directly from kickoff: a ball into a packed box looking as though it was destined to find the net but for the intervention of Godwin-Malife.
The fourth goal did, however, arrive within minutes - another swift attack down the left allowing Kyran Wiltshire to pop up at the far post and stroke home his first goal for the club.
The rout was completed in the 4th minute of added time: Sinclair once again bursting clear of the defence to face Walker one on one, this time opening up his body to curl a delightful finish beyond Walker's outstretched hand and into the side netting.
Victory means that the Hoops will now make the long trip up to Tranmere Rovers on the weekend of Saturday 10th November. Details regarding tickets and travel will be published as soon as possible.