Report - Oxford City 0-2 Tranmere Rovers
All Good Things Must Come to an End
Oxford City were unable to emulate their heroics from 10 days ago as Tranmere Rovers applied the lessons learned in that initial encounter to run out comfortable 2-0 winners.
The EFL League Two side restricted the Hoops by focussing on defensive solidity, grabbing a crucial early goal on the break through James Norwood before Paul Mullin dispossessed Frankie Musonda to double their lead in the 30th minute.
Mark Jones named a side identical to that which turned out at Prenton Park. His line-up consisted of goalkeeper Craig King, protected by centre halves' Joe Oastler and Frankie Musonda with Udoka Godwin-Malife and Ben Jefford at right- and left-back respectively. Reece Fleet, Josh Ashby, and Zac McEachran operated in the heart of midfield behind an attacking front three of Sam Nombe, Kabby Tshimanga, and Kyran Wiltshire.
Under the lights on a wet and zippy Marsh Lane pitch, the Hoops got off to a promising start when Ashby met a Fleet cross, narrowly missing the target.
Things very quickly changed, however, when the visitors took the lead after just six minutes. The Hoops were perhaps a touch guilty of overcommitting themselves in attack, leaving Norwood free to latch onto a long ball and beat King to settle his side's nerves.
City didn't allow the early setback to alter their gameplan too much, and their second significant chance of the game arrived in the 13th minute when Jefford's cross from the left somehow evaded everybody on its way past the far post.
King's first save of note came in the 16th minute – Norwood cutting in from the left to line up an effort on goal, only for the City stopper to beat the ball away.
The Hoops continued to probe, using the fast surface to their advantage as they settled into their typical passing game, but struggled to break through a disciplined back four.
Things became much tougher for the home side right on the half way make as they allowed Tranmere to double their lead. Musonda took a touch too much time on the ball and was punished by Mullin who took possession and made no mistakes with a neat finish beyond King.
Two could have easily become three were it not for an excellent save from King just two minutes later. The entire defence seemed to stop momentarily for an offside that wasn't, leaving the 'keeper to do it all himself with a flying stop low to his right.
City's first shot on target finally came in the 34th minute. Apart from having the honour of being 'first', it wasn't much to write home about – an ambitious long range strike from Tshimanga's left boot almost struggling to reach Scott Davies.
There was just time left in the half for one final sight of goal as another Jefford cross, this time from a free kick, was headed harmlessly wide.
Going into the break, nobody could argue that the visitors weren't deserving of their 2-0 lead. In this competition, however, few would have dared write off the Davids to their Golliath.
Tranmere, however, did an excellent job of keeping things calm for the opening 15 minutes of the second period. The Hoops took their first shot in anger of their half with 61 minutes played – Jefford with an optimistic effort which almost came good, fizzing wide of the far post.
King was then called into action once more; staying tall to beat away another effort, with Godwin -Malife picking up the pieces to clear.
Naturally, the Hoops began to be more direct in their search for a much-needed goal. Nombe perhaps should have reacted a touch faster to get on the end of an unorthodox cross from the left, Davies able to gather comfortably.
Mark Jones played all of his cards at once with 15 minutes remaining – Zac McEachran, Udoka Godwin-Malife, and Kyran Wiltshire all making way for Kunle Otudeko, Eddie Jones, and Bobson bawling.
Otudeko almost made an immediate impact, seeing a shot from close range blocked after a corner was half cleared, but not before King once again made a superb save to tip a dangerous long-range effort over the bar.
The final 10 minutes saw the Hoops huff and puff, but not truly threaten to blow Tranmere's house down and create the chance of a fairytale ending.
Instead, the final whistle brought to an end another memorable – and lucrative – Emirates FA Cup run for Oxford City. By progressing, Tranmere Rovers earn themselves something of a local derby as they take on Southport.
The Hoops, meanwhile, can turn their attentions to the FA Trophy and the visit of Cheltenham Town this Saturday, the 24th of November.