Report - Oxford City 2-0 Hungerford Town
By Ryan Bratley
Resolute defending and a brace of clinical finishes were the keys to victory as Oxford City overcame a strong Hungerford Town at The City Stadium.
Following his side's convincing 3-0 win away to Whitehawk over the weekend, Mark Jones had the luxury of naming an unchanged lineup. Craig Hill started in goal behind a defence of Godfrey Poku, Freddie Grant, Lee Henderson and Joe Oastler. The midfield comprised of Eddie Jones, Zac McEachran and Reece Fleet with Horatio Hirst and Dave Pearce in the wider roles; all supporting Matt Paterson up front.
Both sides got off to a slow start and it took almost 15 minutes for the game to burst into life when Stefan Brown unleashed a rasping effort from range which Hill did excellently to push over the bar. This marked the beginning of an extended spell of pressure for the visitors with Stefan Brown, Luke Williams and Stephane Ngamvoulou all forcing blocks inside the 6 yard box.
When The Hoops did manage to clear their lines they looked dangerous. McEachran's run and pass from a Hungerford corner saw Jones clean through on goal but the midfielder's strike just cleared the crossbar. McEachran was also the architect as Poku found the space to fire a speculative effort at the near post with a similar outcome.
Having re-established themselves in the game as the half drew on, City almost took the lead right on the stroke of half time. Patient buildup play from a throw in saw the ball fall to Fleet on the edge of the area but his effort passed just wide of the near post.
The Hoops were much faster out of the blocks in the second half, taking the lead in the 48th minute. It will come as no surprise that it was McEachran who provided the breakthrough: building upon his excellent first half performance by dancing to the edge of the area and coolly slotting home on his left foot.
The goal seemed to knock The Crusaders' confidence and tempers began to fray. Luke Williams clashed with Oastler as the ball ran out of play, earning himself a lengthy talking to from the referee.
With just over half an hour to play, visiting manager Bobby Wilkinson decided the time was right to roll the dice with a bold triple sub. It was, however, Mark Jones's introduction of Ezra Forde in the 66th minute which proved decisive. Within seconds of coming on the young forward had forced his way to the byline and, although his shot from a tight angle was saved by Lewis Ward, Paterson was on hand to round the stricken 'keeper and plant the ball into the unguarded net.
City then set about protecting their hard-earned lead. Mo Fofana and Jordy Ngathe were both introduced to shore up the defence, containing the visitors well and reducing them to crosses and long shots to which Hill was equal.
The victory marks City's second clean sheet in four days, sending them into the top half of the table having opened the season with back-to-back defeats. They now look ahead to a tricky fixture away to unbeaten Dartford on Saturday, a full preview will be available on Thursday evening.
Oxford City: Hill, Poku, Grant, Jones (Ngathe 77), Henderson (c), Oastler, McEachran, Fleet, Paterson, Hirst (Forde 66), Pearce (Fofana 70)
Subs not used: Demuria, Navarro