Report - Eastbourne Borough 2-0 Oxford City
Oxford City left to rue missed opportunities on the coast
By Ryan Bratley
Oxford City failed to capitalise on last weekend's return to winning ways, falling to a 2-0 defeat at Eastbourne Borough on Saturday afternoon.
Mark Jones was forced to shuffle his deck following last weekend's 3-1 FA Cup victory at Whitehawk, losing Freddie Grant to suspension but welcoming back Christian Oxlade-Chamberlain and Mo Fofana. This saw The Hoops line up with Jack Stevens in goal behind a central defensive pairing of Joe Oastler and Godfrey Poku, with Oxlade Chamberlain and Christian Navarro operating as full backs. Reece Fleet and Fofana took to the centre of midfield alongside Rob Sinclair, flanked by Dave Pearce and Zac McEachran and behind lone striker Matt Paterson.
The Hoops made a strong start to the match, creating two extremely good chances in the opening ten minutes: the first of these saw Sinclair receive the ball on the left, cutting inside before rattling the crossbar from the edge of the area. A minute later the influential midfielder ghosted in at the near post to meet a McEachran free kick, his flicked effort on goal narrowly missing the target.
Whilst City were making the best of the early play, it was the hosts who struck first. Yemi Odubade pounced on a loose ball in the area, seeing his shot take a deflection as it snuck past Stevens at his near post. He should have doubled the lead minutes later as a ball over the top was allowed to bounce dangerously on the edge of the area but, fortunately for The Hoops, his attempt to lob Stevens with a header was underpowered.
While conceding had unsettled City, a return to more calm buildup play began to yield results around the half hour mark. Pearce's cross from the right wing found Fleet at the near post before Poku tried his luck from range – both players seeing their efforts narrowly clear the bar – as The Hoops returned to the ascendency.
A flurry of excellent chances in the final few minutes of the half should have seen the sides go into the break level. A lovely, curling ball into the path of Paterson saw the striker one on one with Bailey Vose in the Eastbourne goal but an exceptional last ditch tackle from Ian Simpemba prevented the stopper from being called into action. He was, however, required just two minutes later when a beautiful one-two with Sinclair put Paterson in on goal once again. This time he got his shot away, looking to place the ball in the bottom left corner, forcing an excellent save from Vose as he got down low to his right.
The stroke of half time almost saw what would have been a goal as spectacular as it was bizarre. A high ball into the box saw Paterson and Vose compete in the air with neither coming away with the ball. A botched clearance found McEachran who, seeing the 'keeper far off of his line, attempted a looping header from 35 yards. Unfortunately for Twitter gif-lovers everywhere the defence were on hand to scramble the ball off of the line.
The break was an unwelcome interruption for The Hoops who looked like scoring with every attack, but this momentum looked to have carried into the second half as Eastbourne were once again forced into some good, last ditch defending. An excellent sliding challenge from McEachran won back possession on the edge of the opposing area, allowing Fleet to play in Sinclair down the channel. Heavy pressure from a defender could not stop a cross from eventually coming in and forcing an extremely awkward clearance from right under the crossbar.
Once again City's failure to take their chances was punished almost immediately. A seemingly innocuous Eastbourne attack saw Sergio Torres muscle his way into the box, producing an unstoppable effort into Stevens' top corner.
Things looked to have been made worse for the The Hoops just a minute later as an apparent stamp on Matt Paterson saw the club's top scorer receive lengthy treatment on pitch.
Mark Jones signalled his intent to chase the game just before the hour mark, replacing Mo Fofana with Ezra Forde. The change made an instant impact with Forde's pace troubling the Eastbourne defence from the outset.
The young forward had the chance of the game less than ten minutes after coming on. Patient buildup saw the ball moved out to the right wing, allowing Oxlade-Chamberlain time and space to deliver a superb cross from deep. The ball picked out an unmarked Forde who, from 12 yards out, powered his header straight at the grateful goalkeeper.
The opportunities kept coming for The Hoops, McEachran wriggling his way into the box only to put his effort over the bar before a neat short corner routine gave Paterson a sight of goal.
With time fast running out for a comeback, Mark Jones's men upped their efforts to get back into the game by committing an increasing number of players to attack in the final ten minutes. Heavy pressure on the Eastbourne backline allowed Forde to win the ball deep in the opposing area and his cross found Navarro unmarked around the penalty spot. Unfortunately the defender was unable to keep his ambitious half volley down.
With so many players City pressing forwards, Eastbourne were nearly able to find a third goal. A quick break down the right gave Harley Willard a golden opportunity but Stevens was on hand to push his effort around the post.
Five minutes of added time came and went with City unable to find their way back into the game, bringing to an end a frustrating 90 minutes for The Hoops.
Oxford City: Stevens, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Navarro, Fofana (Forde 58), Poku, Oastler, McEachran, Fleet, Paterson, Sinclair, Pearce (Jones 78).
Unused Subs: Tutton