Report - Welling United 3-2 Oxford City
Stoppage Time Heartbreak for the Hoops
Oxford City were cruelly denied what would have been a hard-earned point in a five-goal thriller on the road at Welling United.
Despite taking an early lead through Kabby Tshimanga, the Hoops were lucky to go into the break level as the home side controlled the first period. The second, however, was a different story as they created a host of goalscoring opportunities only to go behind in the 72nd minute. Matt Paterson restored parity within minutes, but Anthony Acheampong's stoppage time goal swung the game back into the Wings' favour one final time, consigning City to their first defeat in five games.
Mark Jones made very few changes to the side that came away surprise 3-0 winners over Wealdstone on Bank Holiday Monday. Craig King remained in goal, protected by a back four of Udoka Godwin-Mailfe, Ben Jefford, Luke Ruddick, and captain Joe Oastler. Reece Fleet and Eddie Jones took up positions in the centre of midfield, complemented by Zac McEachran and Kyran Wiltshire in wide roles. Rounding out the side, Kabby Tshimanga partnered Matt Paterson up front.
The hosts dominated the early possession, earning a series of corners which yielded little more than a wayward header from Acheampong.
Having been largely pinned back in their own half, the Hoops almost surprised themselves by taking the lead in the 10th minute: Tshimanga gambling smartly to get onto the end of Fleet's optimistic diagonal ball into the box, rounding the 'keeper with his first touch and slotting calmly into the unguarded net from what could have been a tricky angle.
Despite leading, the Hoops remained on the back foot. Hurried, panicky defending led to a number of opportunities for the Wings and it was only a mix of poor finishing and stout goalkeeping which kept the lead intact.
The inevitable equaliser arrived shortly after the half hour mark. Having seen a deflected effort well saved just moments before, Brendan Kiernen went one better when found on the edge of the area - slotting a calm and composed finish beyond the reach of King.
The relief of equalising did nothing to slow the hosts down. Danny Mills should have done better when well placed in the 33rd minute before seeing his tap-in ruled out for offside shortly before the break.
The half time whistle was a welcome sound for the Hoops who, despite occasional flashes of good football, had struggled to hold the ball well enough to pose any serious, ongoing threat and, in doing so, had invited constant pressure from their hosts.
Fortunately for the travelling fans, the second half was an entirely different story.
An end-to-end opening 90 seconds saw both sides create good opportunities to score. A Fleet cross found its way to Paterson at the far post, the striker's touch taking him a little wider than he would have liked and resulting in a tame effort directly at Dan Wilks. The hosts broke immediately, Jack Jebb the man to direct his effort straight down King's throat.
The Hoops continued to press and began winning set pieces of their own. McEachran's 55th minute corner fell kindly for Tshimanga but the forward's effort from close range was blocked superbly. Oastler and Ruddick could do no better with their follow-up efforts but, with the Wings forced into the kind of defending which had plagued City in the first half, things were looking up for the visitors.
One particular area of weakness for Welling proved to be their left wing, where Wiltshire's tireless running looked like paying dividends every time the ball was worked out wide. One such move saw the winger set free, cutting inside to shoot but failing to find the power necessary to beat Wilks at his near post. he learned from his mistake and, when similarly positioned moments later, produced a far more dangerous effort across goal which narrowly beat both the post and the onrushing Tshimanga.
Meanwhile, Welling remained a threat in the box. Just before the hour, the lively Acheampong pushed forward for a free kick and somehow conspired to scuff an effort from close range tamely across goal and into the grateful hands of King.
Seemingly fed up of seeing his side struggle, Welling manager Steve King made an extremely positive double change: forwards Gavin McCallum and Bradley Goldberg making way for Nassim L'Ghoul and Arnaud Mendy.
The change livened the hosts up a great deal and, almost immediately, L'Ghoul won a free kick out wide. The ball was driven low and hard across goal, forcing Oastler into a robust clearance at the far post.
The letoff emboldened Welling, and they found an equaliser a matter of minutes later when a whipped cross was met by a small touch from Ijaha - leaving King with no hope of making a save.
Conceding a goal against the run of play was perhaps justice for City's opener, but it did nothing to dissuade the Hoops from continuing to press forwards. Their reward could have been instant - Godwin-Malife's surging run into the area being cut short by a terribly timed challenge from L'Ghoul. The Welling substitute earned a booking for the challenge, however the vigorous appeals of the home side left penalty taker Paterson waiting in excess of 3 minutes to take it. When the time to take the spot kick eventually came, the forward was unfortunate to see his powerful effort clip the crossbar on its way out for a goal kick.
Fortunately for the Hoops, the prolific striker was handed an opportunity to make amends for his miss in the 82nd minute. Substitute Craig Fasanmade, brought on in place of Kyran Wiltshire just seconds before, switched the play to Jefford whose cross found Paterson a mere six yards from goal. In stark contrast to his penalty, this effort was a delicate as could be - bamboozling Wilks as is rolled inexorably into the bottom corner to level the game once more.
With less than ten minutes remaining, neither side was willing to let the pace of the game drop despite the muggy heat of this September afternoon. Both teams continued to push forwards at every opportunity, with possession regularly changing hands as both midfields endeavoured to maintain maximum pressure on the ball.
With both sides looking evenly matched, it seemed as though the spoils were set to be shared.
They were not.
In the opening few seconds of what would be five minutes of stoppage time, an innocuous foul granted the Wings a free kick near the half way line. Goalkeeper Wilks stepped up to pump the ball into the box where, with City failing to clear their lines, Acheampong was given both the time and the space to smash a loose ball beyond the reach of Craig King.
The Hoops gave their all to find another equaliser in the dying stages of their game, but were met by a committed and organised defensive unit which did everything necessary to see out the final moments.
Despite defeat, the Hoops remain in a strong league position with a healthy tally of 11 points from 8 matches. Next, they face the short trip to Slough Town who can boast an almost identical record in the league campaign to date.
Oxford City: King, Godwin-Malife, Jefford, Jones, Ruddick, Oastler (c), McEachran, Fleet, Paterson, Tshimanga, Wiltshire (Fasanmade 80).
Unused: Atkinson, Grantham, Fasanmade, Krasniqi.