Report - Oxford City 0-0 Eastbourne Borough
A point apiece to start the season.
Oxford City got off the mark in their first fixture of the season as they shared the spoils in a goalless draw with Eastbourne Borough in sweltering conditions at Marsh Lane on Saturday afternoon. City came closest to breaking the deadlock, right at the end, in a match that the defences came out on top.
Mark Jones had looked to play a similar team to that which started several of the pre-season matches, however he was dealt a blow with Kabongo Tshimanga not quite at full fitness following a knock at Brackley last weekend, and Ben Jefford unable to start due to illness. Both were however able to take up positions on the bench. The City boss did opt to keep his 5-3-2 formation that had worked in pre-season with Craig King starting in goal, protected by captain Joe Oastler, Luke Ruddick and Udoka Godwin-Malife as a back three, with Eddie Jones and Kyran Wiltshire operating as wing-backs. Rob Sinclair sat just in front of the defence with Josh Ashby and Reece Fleet starting as more advanced midfielders, supporting striker Matt Paterson and Zac McEachran, who sat in just behind last season’s top scorer.
McEachran looked most likely to create something in the first period for the Hoops, with two opportunities presented his way in the opening 20 minutes. In the 13th minute, he was played through one-on-one with the ‘keeper. However, just as he was shaping to shoot, Kristian Campbell came across superbly and tackled the midfielder, denying him what would have been a certain goal.
Oastler was required to make a challenge just as important a minute later up the other end. With Eastbourne having broken up the right wing, the City captain was in the right place to slide in and prevent a cross coming in with the Hoops short of numbers at the back.
Play then headed back up the other end, and it was once again McEachran who found himself in sight of goal. A lovely ball over the top found the energetic midfielder, who found time to switch onto his favoured right foot, however his shot just beat the post.
The game quietened down following this, with two headers from the visitors that didn’t trouble King being of most note until the 42nd minute. Fleet was found just inside the box with a high ball, the midfielder deciding to shoot on the full, however he was unable to keep his volley down.
The game failed to ignite after the break, both sides having chances at their opponent’s defences, however neither ‘keeper was called into significant action.
Ryan Hall was perhaps gifted the best opportunity in the 58th minute as he was found free in the City box, however he was forced to stretch to reach the ball and unable to keep his effort down.
Three minutes later and Mark Jones decided to make his first two changes. In an attacking move, Kabongo Tshimanga replaced Josh Ashby, while Udoka Godwin-Malife was replaced after picking up a knock, replaced by Ben Jefford.
Tshimanga was played through in the 75th minute as he was slipped free by a ball down the left. He took it to the edge of the box on the angle before shooting first time, however his shot smashed the side-netting.
Mark Jones made one final change in an attempt to try and take all three points, Eze Ibrahim replacing Kyran Wiltshire.
Once again, the substitute was provided with an opportunity not long after coming on. Fleet had a shot from range that was parried by Mark Smith, straight to Ibrahim, however the ‘keeper made a brilliant save from the striker’s shot to ensure both sides left with a point.
There is very little turnaround time at this time of the season, City next in action away at Gloucester City on Tuesday evening, played at Evesham United’s Jubilee Stadium, 19:45 kick-off.
Oxford City: King, Jones, Godwin-Malife (Jefford 61), Sinclair, Ruddick, Oastler (c), Ashby (Tshimanga 61), Fleet, Paterson, McEachran, Wiltshire (Ibrahim 88).
Unused: Fasanmade, Krasniqi