Report - Chelmsford City 1-2 Oxford City
Chelmsford go Down Under City Pressure
Oxford City carried the momentum of their historic FA Cup success into the National League South, digging deep to record a much-needed 2-1 win against a Chelmsford City side shooting for promotion.
The Clarets struggled to create clear cut chances against an organised defensive unit, finding themselves reliant on set pieces and efforts from range for their best opportunities of the game.
Mark Jones named a side almost entirely unchanged from that which triumphed over Colchester United, the only difference being the introduction of Christian Oxlade-Chamberlain at full back in place of recalled Bath loanee Miles Welch-Hayes. Freddie Grant lined up on the left side of defence alongside the usual central defensive partnership of captain Lee Henderson and Joe Oastler, all protecting Jack Stevens in goal. Godfrey Poku and Mo Fofana operated as holding midfielders behind Rob Sinclair, with Zac McEachran and Dave Pearce working on the wings to support lone striker Matt Paterson.
An early defensive lapse almost saw The Hoops trailing within 5 minutes of kick-off. A long ball from Clarets goalkeeper Sam Beasant was allowed to bounce in the City half, allowing Thomas Hitchcock to steal in behind the defence and forcing Stevens into a smart save at the striker's feet.
The Clarets were made to rue that missed opportunity ten minutes later as City took the lead. Delicate interplay in midfield saw Sinclair free Paterson down the right wing, allowing the striker to pick out the unmarked Pearce who made no mistakes in finding the bottom corner with a first time shot. With Pearce having set up Paterson's all-important goal in the cup, it was only fitting that the club's top scorer turn provider!
The goal brought out Chelmsford's combative nature with Grant finding himself on the wrong end of two robust challenges as the hosts attacked; the first seeing a dangerous low ball into the area cleared whilst the second led to Matthew Johnson skewing his volley high and wide of Stevens' goal.
The Hoops were dealt a harsh blow in the 24th minute as Lee Henderson went down with an injury, requiring lengthy treatment and eventually forcing the skipper off; Cristian Navarro his replacement.
Meanwhile, Danny Green tried his luck twice from range. The ex- Charlton, Luton and MK Dons man sliced his first effort well wide but redeemed himself as the second passed just wide of Stevens' far post.
With the home crowd channelling their frustrations at being 1-0 down at the officials, a series of offside decisions against their forwards did nothing for the mood around the Melbourne Park.
The Hoops looked to capitalise by putting together a spell of prolonged pressure around the half hour mark. Superb, flowing football in the middle of the park ended with Sinclair's cute backheel into the path of Pearce going out behind for a corner which ultimately came to nothing. Not to be outdone, McEachran brought the ball forward from the half way line and, with the opposition seemingly scared to close him down, advanced unchallenged to the edge of the area before teeing up Oxlade-Chamberlain to power a shot into the side netting.
Grant was the next to spearhead an attack, pushing forward down the left before utilising the support of Pearce to work the ball inside to McEachran. The young midfielder's shot was blocked at short range but fell kindly for Paterson to attempt an unorthodox shot with his back to goal which Beasant, under pressure from Sinclair, was unable to claim cleanly.
With 5 minutes of the half remaining the hosts had one final chance to equalise before half time. Michael West got the better of Navarro in the box but couldn't beat Stevens from a tight angle and, although first to the loose ball, found Navarro in position to recover possession with a well-timed tackle.
Meanwhile, at the other end, Clarets defender Craig Barrett lost his footing as he tried and failed to keep up with the twisting and turning of Rob Sinclair.
First half stoppage time looked to pass without incident but was brought back to life as a high boot from Green caught Grant in the face. With no malice in the challenge, the winger escaped with a booking.
Chelmsford Boss Rod Stringer made one change at half time as he looked to chase the game, Ex-City midfielder Scott Davies replacing Danny Green as The Clarets looked to be more compact in midfield.
Davies looked to get involved from the outset, picking up the pieces of a poor 52nd minute corner to deliver a ball to the far post which was eventually headed behind for a goal kick.
Two minutes later The Hoops doubled their lead. Another Davies cross fell comfortably to Paterson on the edge of the area, allowing the striker to set McEachran free down the middle. Despite Paterson's lung-bursting run down the right, McEachran instead found Sinclair on the edge of the D and, with the 'keeper desperately trying to narrow the angle, a simple square ball set up Poku to finish into an open net.
It could have been 3-0 moments later as Oxlade-Chamberlain rode a clumsy challenge to whip a cross into the box, Beasant doing well to get a touch on the ball to prevent Pearce finding the target at the far post.
With 25 minutes remaining Chelmsford finally found the breakthrough they needed. A trademark long throw somehow found its way to Max Porter at the far post for a simple finish.
The hosts looked to replicate this success with a string of throws over the next ten minutes, seeing one headed narrowly wide at the near post before Porter spurned an opportunity eerily similar to his goal.
Mark Jones made his second change of the game in the 71st minute, Eddie Jones replacing Dave Pearce.
With 10 minutes remaining Poku came agonisingly close to doubling his personal tally as a corner fell kindly to him. 30 yards out, he tried his luck with a low effort which, although heading just wide of the post, Beasant touched behind for a goal kick.
The pressure was, however, still very much on City as Chelmsford threw everybody forward in search of an equaliser. An 83rd minute free kick saw Stevens tested; West's well-struck effort making its way around the wall and requiring a strong hand to tip it over the bar. The resulting corner hung around in the box for an uncomfortably long time before being scrambled clear by Sinclair.
This became the theme of the closing minutes of the game as The Hoops somehow cleared from a series of goalmouth scrambles. The hosts' one clear chance fell to Christopher Dickinson as he received the ball in the left channel, beating his man before blasting over Stevens' bar.
Victory sees The Hoops leapfrog Bognor Regis, moving up to 20th in the National League South table. 19th placed Concord Rangers, meanwhile, sit just one point ahead having played two more games.
Oxford City: Stevens, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Grant, Fofana, Henderson (Navarro 27), Oastler, McEachran, Poku, Paterson (Hirst 90), Sinclair, Pearce (Jones 71).
Subs not used: Forde, Tutton