Report - Oxford City 3-2 Wealdstone
Stones Rocked by Early Goals
Oxford City continued their FA Cup inspired resurgence as they notched up a second consecutive win in the league, battling to a 3-2 victory in an eventful tie against Wealdstone.
The Hoops came into the game on a good run of form thanks to last week's result against Chelmsford City and of course the small matter of victory in the FA Cup First Round. They had not, however, recorded a league win on home turf since mid august when the visit of Hungerford Town ended in a comfortable 2-0 win. As then manager of Hungerford, Bobby Wilkinson was on the wrong end of the result that day and will therefore have known exactly what kind of performance City were capable of producing against his new side.
Mark Jones was forced into making one change to last week's side as the injury sustained by captain Lee Henderson during that game saw the defender miss out. The ever-present figure of Jack Stevens lined up in goal behind centre halves Joe Oastler and Cristian Navarro with Cristian Oxlade-Chamberlain and Freddie Grant at fullback. Mo Fofana and Godfrey Poku continued their partnership in the center of midfield, Poku taking over the captain's armband for the day, whilst Rob Sinclair continued to roam the midfield ahead of them. Finally, Zac McEachran and Dave Pearce took to the wings, supporting lone striker Matt Paterson.
The Hoops took the lead in the 5th minute, doing so in a somewhat bizarre style. A long ball out of defence seemed innocuous until Stones 'keeper Jonathan North opted to venture outside of his area, only to be beaten to the ball by Oxlade-Chamberlain whose first time finish rolled almost nonchalantly over the line.
Just three minutes later it was 2-0. A poor free kick fell to McEachran on the edge of the area, the young midfielder taking his time before exchanging passes with Sinclair and firing a first time effort into the bottom corner from 18 yards.
The shellshocked stones looked to formulate a response, Mustafa Tiryaki rising well to meet a left wing cross but seeing his effort pass wide of the post.
It was almost 3-0 in the 19th minute with Oxlade-Chamberlain once again the architect. McEachran took control of the ball in midfield working the ball out to the right hand touchline for Oxlade-Chamberlain to stretch his legs. The Portsmouth loanee did exactly that; taking on two men before driving a cross to the far post where his opposite number, Edward Oshodi, was fortunate not to put through his own net.
The midpoint of the half, however, saw turning point as Wealdstone began to find their feet and assert themselves in the game.
Tiryaki rose well to meet another cross, his effort lacking the power to beat Stevens, but the City stopper was forced into a much better save in the 32nd minute. This time it was Abubaker Eisa's header which saw him get down smartly to his right to not only make the save but push the ball to safety for his defence to clear.
3 minutes later, Eisa got his name on the scoresheet. It was yet another ball into the box which did the damage, this time falling to the striker's feet as he powered a shot back across Stevens to bring The Stones back into contention.
The closing stages of the half were something of a stalemate as Wealdstone maintained possession but struggled to break down an organised City defence. This saw the visitors reduced to long shots with Ryan Sellers, Shaquille Hippolyte-Patrick and goalscorer Eisa all trying their luck with varying degrees of success.
The half time whistle was a welcome sound for The Hoops who, having made the most of their early dominance, were starting to show signs of struggling.
The opportunity to regroup in the dressing room seemingly did the trick as City came back out with all guns blazing once more. McEachran tested North within a minute of the restart, darting into the box from the right to try his luck from a tight angle with a powerful shot which proved too hot for the 'keeper to handle.
McEachran was at the heart of things again in the 51st minute, this time carrying the ball down the left before the ball was worked back across the pitch for Oxlade-Chamberlain to fire narrowly over.
The Hoops were then dealt a blow as injury forced Rob Sinclair off; Horatio Hirst his replacement. The forward got into the game quickly as his low ball across goal, aimed at finding the unmarked Pearce, was scrambled behind for a corner.
The Stones saw a penalty appeal waved away in the 62nd minute after Hippolyte-Patrick's tumble as a cross came in failed to move referee James Durkin.
The Hoops responded once again, Fofana spraying a superb ball into the path of Pearce which saw a Freddie Grant cross evade everybody in the box.
With 20 minutes remaining and the game still in the balance, Bobby Wilkinson made a desperate triple sub: Daniel Fitchett, Harry Goodger and Luke Williams replacing Mustafa Tiryaki, Shaquille Hippolyte-Patrick and Daniel Green respectively. The Hoops, meanwhile, made their second change with the returning Reece Fleet replacing Dave Pearce.
A Wealdstone corner put the pressure back on City and Oshodi should have done better when the ball fell kindly towards him at the far post. The fullback had a second bite at the cherry as he raced onto a chipped ball over the defence, only for the offside flag to save his blushes as Stevens saved well with his feet.
The Stones continued to press, Eisa making the most of Oxlade-Chamberlain's slip in the box to ripple the side netting before Stevens came rashly off of his line and failed to claim the ball. Substitute Fitchett was on hand to take control of the loose ball but, with his back to goal and Navarro in attendance, was unable to find the space to shoot before being calmly dispossessed.
Despite holding only a slender lead, The Hoops continued to be positive going forwards and were almost rewarded when Fleet picked out Hirst at the near post, the young forward's first time effort forcing a superb save from North.
The Hoops made their final change with 5 minutes remaining as Matt Paterson made way for Ezra Forde. The striker made an immediate impact, looking set to break from the half way line before being hauled down by two defenders. The resulting free kick was taken short, setting up an attack down the left which saw Fleet picked out in the box to calmly tuck the ball away for his 5th goal of the season in the 87th minute.
With 3 minutes of normal time remaining and a two goal lead, The Hoops should have been home and dry. However, in typical Oxford City fashion the game was far from over.
Wealdstone pushed forward right from the kickoff (albeit at the second attempt as the first was deemed to have been incorrectly taken) seeing Eisa power a shot past Stevens from the edge of the area. Emotions ran high after the goal as Stevens tangled with an opponent looking to retrieve the ball for a speedy restart; both players earning a booking for their troubles whilst many fans questioned whether a red might have been produced.
Faced with 4 minutes of added times, nerves were jangling all around Marsh Lane. The award of a free kick on the edge of the D did nothing to help matters, especially with the incident appearing to have happened in a much wider position, but the effort which eventually came in cleared the bar comfortably.
The Hoops were able to see out the rest of added time without incident, sealing another 3 points in their battle to ascend from the relegation zone. With Bognor Regis Town and Concord Rangers both winning as well, Tuesday's trip to the former will be another stern test of Mark Jones' men.