Report - Oxford City 1-1 Welling United
Hoops share the spoils with the Wings
Rob Sinclair's debut goal was not enough to give City the three points as a late Welling United penalty levelled a dramatic and controversy-packed game at The City Stadium.
The penalty, converted by Bradley Goldberg, was awarded as Lee Henderson saw red in the 78th minute following an off the ball clash with Jack Parkinson.
Freddie Grant's suspension and the injury sustained by Mo Fofana in last Saturday's away defeat forced Mark Jones into making a number of changes to his side. Oxford United loanee Jack Stevens made his second debut in goal whilst Eddie Jones and Dave Pearce filled in as wingback, supporting a centre back trio of Lee Henderson, Joe Oastler and Cristian Navarro. Godfrey Poku took on a more advanced role in midfield alongside Zac McEachran, Reece Fleet and Sinclair behind striker Matt Paterson.
A quiet opening quarter of an hour was punctuated only by an early booking for Reece Fleet, the midfielder mistiming a challenge on Jeffrey Monakana as Welling looked to break down their left wing.
The Hoops sprang to life in the 20th minute as Paterson flicked the ball on to McEachran, the return pass found his feet 12 yards out but the Welling defence held their shape well to prevent the striker from pulling the trigger.
Having repelled one attack Welling quickly found themselves under pressure again. Poku, enjoying a rare runout in the centre of the park, sprayed a beautiful pass out to Jones on the wing and the ball was quickly moved on to Fleet. The midfielder was able to find one final, incisive pass which saw Paterson's shot pushed around the post by Dillon Barnes in the Welling goal. The resulting corner saw Henderson rise highest, powering a header towards goal which Jack Jebb did superbly to help over the bar.
Barnes was forced into another fine save just after the half hour mark. McEachran lost the ball on the left wing but fought to win it back, riding a heavy challenge as he made his way across the edge of the box before shooting for the bottom left hand corner.
When Welling did threaten their best play came through the tricky Monakana, his 35th minute run seeing him take on and beat five City players before eventually being stopped by Oastler.
With the game looking set to stay goalless until half time, The Hoops were able to put together a fine move and break the deadlock. With the defence calmly stroking the ball around, the move was kicked up a gear as Poku took down a chipped pass and drove the ball to Paterson. The striker chested the ball out wide, receiving a return pass in the box but struggling to get a shot away. Fortunately Sinclair was on hand to mop up the loose ball, calmly turning his marker before stroking the ball home.
While the goal had topped a dominant first half performance for The Hoops, the second was to be a very different affair.
Welling were extremely quick out of the blocks and tested Stevens almost immediately – Tom Bradbrook rising to meet a cross but failing to put his effort either side of the 'keeper. Goldberg forced a much better save out of the Oxford United loanee 5 minutes later, breaking down the right and unleashing a left footed drive which needed tipping round the far post.
Welling saw an extremely strong penalty appeal waved away in the 53rd minute as Jones seemed to block a cross with his raised hand. Both the referee and his assistant were unmoved but did award a corner which almost found its way into the back of the new via a deflection at the near post.
Both sides made changes around the hour mark, Sinclair making way for Ezra Forde whilst the visitors brought on Christian Nanetti and Lloyd Macklin in place of Harry Phipps and Tom Bradbrook.
Forde almost made an impact just five minutes after his introduction, bursting clear of the Welling defence as City broke from a corner only to be denied by a crucial tackle from Barnes as the 'keeper rushed out of his area.
A minute later the visitors were back on the offensive and saw Goldberg produce a carbon copy of his earlier effort, although this time Stevens' save saw the ball go safely out for a throw.
The mood of the game began to change in the 73rd minute. For the first time in the half City were able to get forward in numbers, getting the ball into a packed box where – after a few players saw attempts blocked – Pearce was able to find the back of the net. The celebrations were cut short however as the assistant raised his flag for an offside against Fleet who was deemed to be impeding the goalkeeper.
Things got worse in the 78th minute as Welling were awarded a penalty. The City defence cleared a corner and, with most players clearing the box, Henderson and Jack Parkinson clashed on the byline. The referee, seemingly unsighted from having followed the play upfield, adjudged Henderson to be the aggressor and duly produced a red card for the bewildered captain. Goldberg stepped up and confidently dispatched the penalty to level the game.
Down to ten men and still reeling from losing their lead, The Hoops almost found themselves a goal down with 4 minutes remaining as Parkinson's stooping header from a corner passed narrowly past the far post.
Speaking after the game, Mark Jones addressed the game's key controversies.
“We feel very hard done by with a couple of the decisions that have gone against us. I'm sure the referees are honest people and they've seen things today but we feel that we've had a perfectly good second goal chalked off […] and then the second decision for the penalty. A lot of people who were closer have said it was something and nothing.”
He also spoke highly of his two new signings.
“Both players did very well. Jack Stevens looked very assured – I don't think he had a save to make in the first half but second half he had a lot more to do. He saved two or three efforts on goal and showed good, strong hands to push them away – he looked very comfortable.”
“It was the same for Rob Sinclair. He hasn't played a lot of football over the last few months, he hasn't played any pre season games at all and its a while since he has played competitively at all.”
Finally, the manager looked ahead to Monday's tie at Chippenham
“We are down to the bare bones a little bit now. We need to look at the situation with Lee Henderson – I hope he's not going to be suspended straight away because unfortunately Guri [Demuria] has left the club and with Freddie Grant suspended we are looking very short of defenders.”
Oxford City: Stevens, Jones, Pearce, Navarro, Henderson, Oastler, Poku, Fleet, Paterson, McEachran, Sinclair (Forde 60 (Hirst 90))
Subs not used: Bennett, Ngathe