Report - Weston-super-Mare 1-1 Oxford City
Kabby Tsh-mash and Grab
Oxford City were fortunate to salvage a point against a lively, but ultimately toothless, Weston-super-Mare side.
The Gulls came into the game without a win to their name but looked likely to put an end to their poor run of form thanks to Welch's 71st minute strike. However, a scrappy goal from Kabby Tshimanga nine minutes from time was enough to earn a point for the Hoops in a game which always looked likely to be a draw.
Having struggled to put together a side to face St Albans a week prior, Mark Jones will have been relieved to welcome new signings Carl Stewart and Mike Atkinson into his squad, the latter finally having completed his registration despite arriving during pre-season. Defenders Ben Jefford and Luke Ruddick returned from suspension, however the City boss was given a fresh headache with midfielders Rob Sinclair and Josh Ashby both sidelined by injuries sustained against the Saints.
All of the chopping and changing led to the Hoops lining up in a slightly unfamiliar 4-4-2 formation: Craig King taking up his position in goal, protected by centre halves Udoka Godwin-Malife and Joe Oastler. Eddie Jones remained at right back, with Jefford returning on the left. Reece Fleet was partnered in the centre of midfield by the debuting Stewart, with Kyran Wiltshire and Zac McEachran runing the wings. Finally, Matt Paterson was joined up front by Kabby Tshimanga to complete the line-up.
The opening exchanges were dominated by patient passing from the two sides, both of whom were eager to settle into their usual rhythms of getting the ball down and playing. The first real attack of the game came in the 7th minute, Stewart making an impact early on as he won possession in midfield and drove forward to win a corner. The set piece ultimately led to a promising counter for the hosts, George Nurse seting up Gethyn Hill only to see the forward's show deflected wide.
With both sides preferring a more intricate, passing game it was perhaps unsurprising that some of the most promising opportunities came from moments of more direct play. Paterson almost capitalised on a superb 16th minute through-ball out of defense, his run into the channel granting him the time and space to take a run at Jason Pope. Matched for pace, the striker opted to take on a somewhat speculative shot from a tough angle, directing his effort straight at Luke Purnell in the Weston goal.
The hosts responded with a good set piece to the far post, Hill heading comfortably over the bar, before Jarrad Welch's rasping strike from range forced a smart save from King.
With half an hour played, Welch was once again the danger man for the Gulls: picking up a loose ball to the left of the area, the Somerset club's top scorer took aim at the far post only to be denied by the well-placed Jefford.
With the exception of a wild effort from Welch, the final 15 minutes of the half were played without either side earning a sight of goal. The Hoops in particular strugled in the final third, the energetic pressing of the home side forcing a much more direct style of play than Mark Jones would have liked.
The second half started in very much the same way that the first had ended, Jamie Lucas mustering the first effort on goal as he blazed well over.
The Gulls atempted to make the most of defender Matthew Bower's considerable height from set peices, but found the big man lacking in accuracy as he spurned a good opportunity from Welch's delivery.
A scrappy period folowed, the referee's whistle playing a more prominent role than anybody in white or green as almost every challenge resulted in a free kick for one side or the other.
With the game looking destined to end 0-0, Weston-super-Mare finally fired some life into proceedings in the 72nd minute. Welch was the man providing the finish, recieving the ball on the edge of the area and powering an effort across King to give his side the lead.
Mark Jones responded to the goal with his first substitution of the game, Luke Ruddick replacing Udoka Godwin-Malife and Ben Jefford making way for Craig Fasanmade.
The Hoops took only 6 minutes to return fire, albeit in fairly bizarre fasion. McEachran, who had been the shining light in an otherwise unremarkable City lineup, took matters into his own hands as he drove past three defenders before unleashing an excellent shot which drew an equally high-quality save from Purnell. The resulting corner was poor, failing to beat the first man, but captain Jacob Cane's attempted clearance was sliced directly into the danger zone. Oastler's strength and awareness allowed the City skipper to dictate where the loose ball went and Tshimanga did the rest - sweeping home on the turn despite the best efforts of the 'keeper.
The goal proved to be the last meaningful action of the game, with both sides continuing to trade possession in midfield without testing either 'keeper.
The hard-earned point brings Oxford City's total for the season to 8, leaving them firmly mid-table as the shape of the league begins to emerge. Their next outing, bank holiday Monday's visit from Wealdstone, looks set to be a stern test with the West-London side sitting pretty in fifth and boasting a nnumber of ex-Hoops among their sizeable squad.