Report - Oxford City 0-2 Dartford
Clinical Darts Hit a Double for Maximum Points
Oxford City came out on the wrong end of a 2-0 scoreline in an entertaining battle with second placed Dartford at Marsh Lane. A strike early in the first half from Elliot Bradbrook, teamed with a late goal from Tom Murphy, was enough to see the visitors remain hot on the heels of league leaders Havant & Waterlooville.
City boss Mark Jones was forced into one change to the side that beat Welling United as Godfrey Poku was unavailable due to the injury picked up at Park View Road. Jones opted for a like for like replacement as Mo Fofana came in as a straight swap, lining up in the centre of midfield with Reece Fleet and Rob Sinclair who took up a more attacking role, linking with the strike partnership of Matt Paterson and Sam Nombe. Craig King retained his position between the sticks with captain Joe Oastler, Connor Stevens and Frankie Musonda protecting him as a back three. Eddie Jones and Freddie Grant complete the eleven, lining up at wingbacks.
The match was only three minutes old when the referee produced the only booking of the match. Alex Brown was penalised, following a very heavy challenge on Fofana, by the man in the middle Jason Richardson, the City midfielder requiring some early treatment.
Two minutes later, the visitors broke the deadlock. An initial ball in the box was cleared into his only player by Stevens, the second attempt was only as far as Elliot Bradbrook on the edge of the box who struck sweetly first time past the outstretched hand of King and into the corner of the net.
City fought valiantly after going behind but took them until the 25th minute before their first clear-cut effort at goal. Nombe did excellently down the right hand side before he cut in on the by-line and crossing to Paterson on the penalty spot who fired uncharacteristically over the bar.
Jones was the next provider for Paterson ten minutes later as, from a similar position, he drove a cross to the frontman, however his effort went just wide of the post.
The two players combined again on 40 minutes as the City wingback chipped a cross into Paterson, however his header was straight at Berti Schotterl in the visitor’s goal.
Paterson had one final chance in the first half just one minute before the break. This time it was Sinclair who darted down the right-hand side before his cross found the club’s top scorer, this time his header went just wide.
This was the final effort in what was a well fought first half between two sides playing good football. City found themselves a goal down early but had fought well to try and get themselves back into the game.
The Darts started the second half strongly and had a chance to double their lead just three minutes in. A couple of corners were sent in and Bradbrook’s header was saved initially before becoming loose, the visitor’s goalscorer looked destined to score his second, however Eddie Jones was on hand to hack off the line just in time.
City once again were able to put pressure on their opponents’ box following this scare. On 57 minutes a corner from Sinclair found Paterson unmarked, however it was straight at Schotterl who made the save.
Reece Fleet was the next to have an effort at the Darts’ goal. A loose ball fell to him around 30 yards out, however he was unable to fully connect, and ended up flying high and wide.
Play then went up the other end and Alfie Pavey drove powerfully at goal from a wide angle. King was able to make a good save which hit the back of Stevens, however the City stopper was alert to pounce on the loose ball before an attacker.
Mark Jones then made the first of his substitutions on 68 minutes, an attacking minded one as Mo Fofana was replaced by Zac McEachran.
The change nearly paid dividends immediately. A good save from the Dartford stopper forced a corner that McEachran took. He was able to find the head of Grant, however his header came crashing back off the crossbar and away to safety.
On 75 minutes, the Darts struck the decisive blow: Tom Murphy cut onto his right foot from the left flank and struck a brilliant, curled effort into the far corner of the net that left King with no chance.
City didn’t give up at this moment and still fought to try and get back into the match. Schotterl was called into action once again just three minutes later as Paterson was played through in space, however the Darts’ keeper saved superbly after the City striker looked destined to score.
The City boss then made his final two changes in a last gasp attempt at salvaging something from the game. Both wing-backs were sacrificed as Freddie Grant and Eddie Jones were replaced by Ezra Forde and Udoka Godwin-Malife.
On 87 minutes, Musonda was the next City player to have a go at the visitors’ goal. Having been given a bit of space 35 yards out, the centre-back struck sweetly, however could only watch as his effort came crashing off the bar, and out for a goal kick.
This turned out to be the last clear effort on the game, and left City wondering what could have been had they converted some of their chances. The result saw Dartford stay just two points behind leaders Havant & Waterlooville, who picked up a 2-1 win this afternoon away at Bath City. Oxford City meanwhile stay 9 points above the drop zone with seven matches still to play, however have matches still to play against four of the seven sides below them in the table.
Next up for the Hoops in the National League South is a trip to Essex to face Braintree at Cressing Road, a 3pm kick-off on Good Friday. The Easter weekend is then rounded off when Chippenham Town visit Marsh Lane, also a 3pm kick-off.
Oxford City: King, Jones (Godwin-Malife 80), Stevens, Fofana (McEachran 67), Musonda, Oastler (c), Nombe, Fleet, Paterson, Sinclair, Grant (Forde 80).