Report - Hemel Hempstead 2-0 Oxford City
City's hopes blown away at Vauxhall Road.
Oxford City failed to carry their momentum from the FA Cup into the league, falling to a 2-0 defeat in an incident-packed trip to Hemel Hempstead Town.
Tricky conditions did little to help the quality of the game, swirling winds combining with a heavily sloped pitch to hamper both sides, but it was The Tudors who adapted best to run out relatively comfortable winners.
Despite some concerns over illnesses suffered by some players, Mark Jones was able to name an unchanged starting eleven whilst also strengthening his bench. Jack Stevens started in goal behind a centre back pairing of Lee Henderson and Joe Oastler, and Eddie Jones and Cristian Navarro operating as fullbacks. The midfield comprised of Godfrey Poku and Reece Fleet with Rob Sinclair and former Tudors winger Dave Pearce out wide. Finally, Ezra Forde and Matt Paterson continued their newly-formed partnership up front.
The game got off to a poor start as both sides struggled to get used to the conditions, the first 15 minute punctuated only by a number of poor challenges.
The first clear chance fell to the hosts as a cross from the right wing found Charlie Sheringham who headed well wide of Stevens' goal. He made amends, however, just minutes later as he wriggled his way in from the left before powering a shot through a flock of players and into the back of the net.
Whilst Hemel were creating some reasonably clear cut chances, The Hoops struggled to make their long balls connect with their forwards.
The Tudors should have doubled their lead in the 25th minute when a driven cross found the head of an unmarked Tom Day, only for the defender to head the ball further away from goal.
A rare City corner met the head of Forde before Jordan Parkes drilled an effort narrowly over the bar in first half stoppage time.
Mark Jones was forced into two half time changes, Zac McEachran and Horatio Hirst replaced Ezra Forde and Matt Paterson owing to injury and illness respectively.
The Hoops got off to a nightmare start as Hemel found a second goal in the 51st minute. Patient passing around the City box saw the ball worked to Spencer McCall whose curling effort snuck into the far bottom corner. Parkes almost added a third shortly afterwards with a long range effort which cannoned off of the inside of the post.
The Hoops were handed a lifeline in the 65th minute when Hirst was brought down by former City stopper Laurie Walker. The award of a penalty was dubious at best with the 'keeper seemingly having taken the ball and lengthy remonstrations with the referee delayed the taking of the spot-kick by three minutes. Eventually Fleet was able to step up, seeing his low shot to Walker's left saved with relative ease. A poor clearance saw Pearce deliver for Sinclair at the far post with his effort from close range cannoning back off of Walker's legs, although the linesman's offside flag would have spared any blushes.
With the deficit still sat at two goals, The Hoops spurned another good chance to get back into the game in the 84th minute, A quick break saw Sinclair burst through the middle, finding an unmarked McEachran in the right hand channel. The young forward burst clear of the defence and successfully rounded Walker but couldn't beat the retreating defenders on the line.
Six minutes of added time came and went without any further opportunities for City, leaving them 21st in the National League South.
Oxford City: Stevens, Jones, Navarro, Poku (Welch-Hayes 72'), Henderson (c), Oastler, Sinclair, Fleet, Paterson (Hirst HT), Forde (McEachran HT), Pearce.
Unused Subs: Grant, Tutton.