Report - Truro City 2-3 Oxford City
Phe-Nombe-enal comeback as City snatch all three points.
Oxford City made the most of their longest trip of the season, bringing all three points back from Cornwall as Mark Jones' men produced a dramatic comeback to triumph over Truro City.
The Hoops found themselves 2-0 down within 20 minutes, carrying the deficit into half time before two second half goals from Sam Nombe and a Matt Paterson penalty turned things around in the second period.
Mark Jones was forced into two changes to the side which beat Hemel Hempstead 4-1 a week prior, injuries to Connor Stevens and Christian Oxlade-Chamberlain disrupting both defence and attack. The gaffer took the opportunity to grant forward Sam Nombe, scorer of City's 4th against the Tudors, and defender Udoka Godwin Malife their full debuts. Godwin-Malife joined Joe Oastler and Frankie Musonda in the centre of defence, protecting Craig King in goal. Godfrey Poku and Reece Fleet took on holding midfield roles, granting Rob Sinclair freedom to roam further up the field, whilst Freddie Grant and Eddie Jones patrolled the wings. Finally, Matt Paterson partnered Nombe up front.
The Hoops began the game dominating possession, but quickly found themselves undone by a 10th minute corner. Whipped in from the right, the delivery was met sweetly by White Tigers captain Ben Gerring, his header powering the ball into the top corner to give the playoff-chasing hosts the lead.
The hunt for an equaliser began immediately, stout defending from Oastler allowing Poku to find Nombe whose shot from range was deflected behind.
Things went from bad to worse for City in the 19th minute. A small mixup in defence proved costly as Aaron Lamont burst clear, making the most of the time and space he was afforded to loft an effort over Craig King to double his side's advantage.
Undeterred, the Hoops once again set about their task and looked to have clawed a goal back in the 22nd minute thanks to the dominant aerial presence of Oastler. The solid centre half rose highest to meet Grant's free kick, forcing a good save from McHale, and repeated the trick from the incoming corner only to see his effort hacked off of the line.
In the midst of the frenetic goalmouth action, Mark Jones was forced into an extremely early change as Zac McEachran replaced the injured Rob Sinclair. The substitute almost went on to give City a much-needed lifeline in the 33rd minute; picking the ball up on the edge of the area and beating two men to get into a shooting position, he was unfortunate to see his effort canon back off the crossbar. Jones was on hand to control the rebound, teeing up Poku only for his shot to be deflected over the bar.
With the Hoops struggling to convert their chances, the clinical hosts could have gone three goals up in the 35th minute. Delicate passing play on the edge of the City area allowed the dangerous Tyler Harvey to race free, Craig King's speed off of the line proving enough to force the striker into shooting wide.
The final action of the half was instigated by the visitors. With the White Tigers struggling to clear their lines, Fleet produced an unorthodox chip into the area which was met by the head of McEachran – lobbing McHale but failing to find the target.
Where the first half had been defined by the clinical finishing of Truro City and lack of cutting edge on the part of Oxford, the second proved to be almost precisely the inverse as the Hoops unlocked the White Tigers' defence with their vastly improved movement in the final third.
The Hoops took their first step towards restoring parity in the 52nd minute. A long ball down the right was met by a sublime backheel from Paterson, leaving Nombe with time and space to pull back for McEachran. The pass was expertly read by the defence, but City were able to recycle posession quickly and find McEachran in the right channel where a clumsy challenge was deemed worthy of a penalty.
Paterson stepped up to take responsibility for the spot kick, making no mistakes as he planted the ball out of McHale's reach despite the 'keeper diving the right way.
It took only a further eight minutes for the Hoops to draw level. Grant's hard work was rewarded as he won the ball on the half way line, immediately seeking out McEachran on the break. With Paterson and Nombe in support, the midfielder opted to pick out the latter with a neatly lofted through ball which was met with a neat first touch, the forward quickly cutting inside to curl a neat and composed finish into the far corner.
The equaliser left the hosts stunned and, with a lack of vocal support behind them, they laboured to bring the ball forwards. A rare attack granted Lamont an opportunity to test King from range, only for his effort to fly over the bar.
The Hoops continued applying pressure and were rewarded in the 71st minute. An innocuous long ball down the right was collected by the defence but, under pressure from Nombe, the player slipped in possession. The striker made the most of his good fortune, advancing calmly on the 'keeper and showing composure far beyond his years to prod the ball into the bottom corner and complete the comeback.
The goal proved to be Nombe's final meaningful involvement in the game as a heavy challenge saw him hobble off in the 78th minute, Mo Fofana the replacement as Mark Jones looked to protect his side's vulnerable lead.
The closing stages brought few major threats to Craig King's goal as the combination of Musonda, Oastler and Godwin-Malife looked assured in defence, dealing with a number of balls into the box without undue fuss. It was in fact Oxford who looked the more likely to score; Paterson's heavy touch denying him the chance to test himself one-on-one against McHale before Poku saw a shot from the edge of the area blocked at close range.
Oxford City: King, Jones, Godwin-Malife, Poku (c), Musonda, Oastler, Nombe (Fofana 78), Fleet, Paterson, Sinclair (McEachran 23), Grant.
Unused Sub: Forde