Matt Batters Stones
Oxford City 3-0 Wealdstone
By Ryan Bratley
Oxford City left it late to secure a surprising 3-0 victory over Wealdstone at Marsh Lane, bringing their Bank Holiday Weekend points total up to four.
The scoreline does little to reflect the balance of a game where the Hoops were largely on the back foot until Kabby Tshimanga's composed finish turned the tide in the home side's favour with 20 minutes remaining. A brace of Matt Paterson penalties, both conceded by ex-City defenders, followed to leave the shellshocked visitors with no hope of mustering a response.
Mark Jones continued to suffer a number of headaches in terms of team selection, with the existing misery of multiple long-term injuries compounded by a number of players failing late fitness tests. Craig King remained in goal with captain Joe Oastler, Udoka Godwin-Malife, and the returning Luke Ruddick ahead of him in the centre of defence. Eddie Jones was joined by Kyran Wiltshire in the wing back positions whilst Mike Atkinson made his first start in midfield, alongside Reece Fleet. Zac McEachran and Kabby Tshimanga ran their respective wings, supporting lone striker Matt Paterson.
The opening exchanges looked promising for the Hoops, Tshimanga latching onto a teasing diagonal ball and forcing a good save from Jonathan North in the Wealdstone goal. However, the momentum quickly swung back the other way as the familiar face of Godfrey Poku sent a superb ball into the area, forcing a goal-saving clearance from Fleet inside his own 6-yard box.
There was little letup in the end-to-end action as the Hoops broke from the resulting corner, Thsimanga aiming a very similar cross towards Paterson but putting just a touch too much power on the ball.
King was put under unnecessary pressure in the 12th minute when David Pratt latched onto a woefully under-hit backpass. The forward looked certain to score, but King was quick off of his line to shut down the shooting angle and save at close range.
With the visitors providing most of the goalmouth action, a 21st minute free kick gave City the opportunity to demonstrate the threat they could pose in front of goal. With Freddie Grant's initial header putting the ball deeper into the danger zone, Tshimanga was able to take control and find McEachran whose powerful effort failed to find the target
The frenetic pace of the game thus far proved to be unsustainable, and an almost welcome period without goalmouth action ensued. When things did kick back into life in the 33rd minute, it was once again Wealdstone who were the instigators: Bradley Hudson-Odoi with a speculative effort from a tight angle which forced another smart save from King. This was followed a matter of minutes later by a Daniel Green cross which struck the bar.
The half time whistle brought to an end a 45 minutes in which both sides had struggled to turn their possession into goals. Wealdstone's energetic, pressing game had proven effective in stifling City's preferred passing game, but the home side's organised, deep defending had done the same to the Stones. Mark Jones responded by making one change for the second half: Mike Atkinson making way for Craig Fassanmade, the substitute taking up Eddie Jones' position at wing back whilst Jones moved into his preferred central position.
Jones made the most of his more attacking role in the 52nd minute, finding the ball at his feet 20 yards from goal and letting loose a curling effort which sailed wide of the mark.
The visitors, meanwhile, continued to look threatening in attack. Matthew Lench should have done better with his 58th minute header, rising well at the far post but directing his effort straight at the City 'keeper. It was a similar story when Pratt had the opportunity to shoot from close range, looking to thread his effort between King's legs but failing to generate sufficient power.
In scenes encouragingly reminiscent of last season's 3-2 win at Marsh Lane, Wealdstone manager Bobby Wilkinson made a trademark triple substitution in a bid to change his team's fortunes.
The changes almost made an instant impact. Godwin-Malife was caught in possession, allowing Poku to race clear, however Oastler recovered superbly to dispossess his former teammate.
With 20 minutes remaining, the Hoops began to come into their own, suddenly discovering the ability to almost walk through the Stones' defence at will. Godwin-Malife atoned for his earlier mistake with an excellent ball into the box, finding Tshimanga who somehow dragged his shot wide.
Tshimanga didn't have to wait long for another sight of goal. Another good, passing move in the 72nd minute led to the City striker receiving the ball on the edge of the box. With no sign of a tackle coming in, he was left free to pick his spot and fire a composed finish past North.
The lead could have been doubled within 5 minutes, McEachran teeing the goalscorer up to smash an effort wide, but the game began to look safe with 10 minutes remaining. McEachran was the danger man, driving into the box and going down under a clumsy challenge from Grant to earn a penalty. Paterson stepped up and, despite having seen his previous spot-kick saved by St Albans stopper Dean Snedker, held his nerve to send North the wrong way.
Things went further South for the Wealdstone 'keeper just two minutes later when Connor Stevens took down Tshimanga, allowing Paterson to send a second penalty into almost the exact same spot to make the game well and truly safe.
With the Wealdstone side's heads having dropped so low they may well have been tasting rubbercumb, the Hoops were afforded the opportunity to pass the ball around almost at will. Paterson could have grabbed a quite incredible hattrick when he found himself clear of the disenfranchised defence, however the striker couldn't find a finish from open play.
This win propels the Hoops into 9th place, level on both points and goal difference with Wealdstone and below them only by virtue of goals scored. Next weekend's opponents, Welling United, sit in 7th – once again level on points but with significantly better goal difference following their commanding 5-0 victory over Concord Rangers.
Oxford City: King, Jones, Godwin-Malife, Atkinson (Fasanmade HT), Ruddick, Oastler, McEachran, Fleet, Paterson, Tshimanga, Wiltshire. Subs not used: Krasnioi, Grantham, Jefford, Stewart.