City beached at Concord
Oxford City's poor start to 2018 continued as Mark Jones' men slipped to a 2-1 defeat at fellow strugglers Concord Rangers.
Freddie Grant's close range finish appeared to have rescued a point for The Hoops following Femi Akinwande's first half opener, only for Stephen Cawley's emphatic finish to give the home side all three points with ten minutes remaining.
Mark Jones went into the game in experimental mood, lining his side up in a new-look 3-5-1-1 formation. Joe Oastler, Cristian Navarro and Conor Stevens joined forces in defence, protecting goalkeeper Craig King. Eddie Jones and Freddie Grant were deployed on the wings whilst Mamadou Fofana, Godfrey Poku and Zac McEachran held down the centre of midfield. Finally, Rob Sinclair sat in behind lone Striker Matt Paterson to complete the lineup.
The early exchanges failed to yield chances of note for either side; Beach Boys goalkeeper Louis Wells collecting a dangerous cross fro McEachran before Navarro headed over from a corner.
The hosts took the lead with their first chance of the game, Akinwande's spectacular effort from range dipping under King's crossbar in the 16th minute.
The Hoops looked to fight their way back into the game but found an organised defence in their way. It took trademark composure and trickery from Sinclair to serve up a shot on goal, the midfielder receiving the ball on the edge of the area and turning smartly to tee Paterson up for a shot straight down Wells' throat.
A brief stoppage for some running repairs on a set of decidedly wonky goalposts provided brief respite from the increasingly frenetic pace of the game.
In the 37th minute a Concord free kick from the edge of the area provided a good opportunity for a second goal, but King was equal to the effort with an excellent flying save to his left. McEachran's effort from 18 yards five minutes earlier, however, had required no such heroics.
The young midfielder made amends with City's best chance of the half, weaving his way into the box before unleashing an effort which took a deflection as it clipped the outside of the post.
The hosts came out strongly in the second half and nearly saw Akinwande double his personal tally in the 52nd minute. Bursting clear of Oastler, the youngster's confident strike beat King but not the woodwork as it crashed back off of the post.
The Hoops saw a strong penalty shout waved away in the 56th minute as the ball appeared to strike a raised Concord hand in the box, but this was quickly forgotten a minute later as Grant popped up at the back post to sweep home a McEachran cross and level the scores.
The goal sparked a spell of City dominance but this still yielded few clear chances: Paterson's attempt to sneak an effort past Wells at his near post constituting a rare test for the 'keeper.
Mark Jones made his first of two changes in the 66th minute, Christian Oxlade-Chamberlain replacing Cristian Navarro as the Hoops changed to a more familiar four-at-the-back system.
The visitors came back into the game as it drew into the final stages. With just over ten minutes remaining, their attack overwhelmed the City backline only for Khale Da Costa to smash the ball against the crossbar when it seemed easier to find the target.
Two minutes later, however, Cawley latched onto a smart through ball from Ben Greenhalgh to plant the ball beyond the reach of King and put his side back into the ascendency.
The goal sparked a second change for the Hoops, Ezra Forde replacing Mamadou Fofana.
The change came too late for the Hoops as their hosts not only held firm during the closing stages but looked the more likely side to score. A last second corner offered a glimmer of hope for the Hoops with goalkeeper Craig King making his way forward, rising well to meet the delivery but heading high and wide of the target.
Oxford City: King, Jones, Navarro (Oxlade Chamberlain, 66), Poku, Stevens, Oastler, McEachran, Fofana (Forde, 85), Paterson, Sinclair, Grant
Unused subs: Peake-Pijnen, Godwin-Maliffe