Report - Oxford City 0-1 Whitehawk
Hawks Strike Gold
Oxford City failed to grasp the opportunity to put a ten point gap between themselves and the relegation zone as they fell to abject defeat against bottom of the table Whitehawk at Marsh Lane on Saturday afternoon.
Gold Omotayo’s 58th minute free kick for the visitors was enough to see them back to Brighton with an important three points in their bid for the Great Escape from relegation.
Mark Jones made a number of changes to his starting eleven from the side that fell to Havant & Waterlooville on Tuesday night. There were full debuts for two players as Craig King came immediately into the team in goal, as well as Connor Stevens making his first start in centre defence. He was partnered by Joe Oastler with Eddie Jones and Freddie Grant at right back and left back respectively. City suffered a blow as Rob Sinclair picked up an injury during training on Thursday, he was replaced by Dave Pearce who went into central midfield alongside Godfrey Poku and Reece Fleet, just behind lone striker Matt Paterson. Wingers Zac McEachran and Christian Oxlade-Chamberlain completed the eleven.
It was City who had the first real effort on goal as the ball was played to Pearce in space; his turn was followed by a shot from the right hand side of the box, however it drifted just wide of the post.
City’s debutant keeper was called into action just three minutes later as Elliot Benyon was played through on goal. Although the striker got to the ball before King, the stopper closed him down well and managed to smother the attempted shot over him.
The majority of the Hoops' attacking play during the first half was going through Oxlade-Chamberlain. On ten minutes, the winger was able to dart into the centre of the park with the ball, however, he was unable to keep his shot from the edge of the box down.
The yo-yo feel of the half continued, and it was Whitehawk who next forced a shot in anger. Omotayo, who has starred for the Hawks following his move there in December, received the ball on the edge of the box, his goalbound shot forcing an excellent save from King down to his left. Almost immediately, City were able to break, and a pinpoint through ball saw Paterson beat the offside trap. Hawks keeper Daniel Wilks was out quickly however, and made a good sliding challenge outside the box just before the striker could get onto the ball.
City’s best chance of the game came seven minutes later. Dave Pearce cut into the centre of the pitch, and he unleashed a powerful shot towards the bottom corner of the net that Wilks saw late, however the Hawks stopper got down well to palm the effort brilliantly around the post. The resulting set piece came to nothing.
Whitehawk rallied following this near setback and forced a chance of their own a few minutes before the break. Simon Mensah had a shot from the edge of the box that had King scrambling to push behind for a Hawks corner, which then failed to test the keeper.
Robert Massey-Ellis’s whistle marked the end of what was a fairly even half with both sides forcing saves out of the goalkeepers. The second period was to follow a completely different path with Whitehawk dominating the half and City not really getting going, tiredness from a midweek trip to the south coast perhaps playing a part in this.
It was 13 minutes before the first effort of the half, and turned out to be the most important of the game. Benyon was fouled just outside the box from a wide angle. Omotayo stood over the ball and then curled it over the wall and inside the near post, leaving King with no chance of up the ground.
Their lead could have been doubled just three minutes later as Benyon found Lucas Rodrigues and his shot on the half volley required an excellent save again from King down low.
Mark Jones made his first change on 66 minutes as Ezra Forde replaced Christian Oxlade-Chamberlain, and it nearly paid off immediately. The fresh striker burst forward and on the edge of the box unselfishly tried to square it to Paterson, however the ball was cut out right at the last moment before the Hoops top scorer could get a foot on it.
The second and third substitutions came in the last ten minutes as Zac McEachran and Eddie Jones were replaced by the returning Matt Peake-Pijnen, for an extra option down the left wing, and Cristian Navarro, who was brought on as a bit of extra height in the box in the closing stages.
The Hawks had a great chance to put the game all but beyond doubt in the 82nd minute. Ky Marsh-Brown was able to swing a set piece into the box and found Yannis Ambroisine whose header toward the top of the net was well pushed over the bar by King.
The Hoops had one last gasp effort as a ball was delivered into the box in the second of four added minutes. The ball ping-ponged in the box for a few seconds, however a City foot was unable to guide it towards the net and was eventually cleared by the Hawks defence.
The City pressure allowed for one final Whitehawk chance as Benyon found Ryan Worrall down the left hand side of the box, and his shot from a tight angle was saved for a corner in the last of the added minutes. The corner came to nothing and City were out of time to try and force an equaliser.
With several sides in FA Trophy action yesterday, the Hoops remain in 17th place in the table, still seven points ahead of the relegation zone, although have now played two more games than Poole Town in 20th.
The Hoops have a blank midweek this week, so are back in action next Saturday as they travel away to East Thurrock United in the National League South, 3pm kick-off at Rookery Hill.