Report - Oxford City 1-2 Bath City
Last Gasp winner condemns City to defeat
Joe Raynes' stoppage time winner consigned Oxford City to a third successive defeat as visitors Bath City ran out 2-1 winners at Marsh Lane.
The Hoops look set to smuggle a point away from the game when Josh Ashby's deflected effort cancelled out a firm header from Adam Mann, only be to denied at the death by defender Raynes' superb strike.
Mark Jones faced a match without captain Joe Oastler, suspended following his straight red card against Slough 7 days prior, but was boosted by the return of fellow defenders Udoka Godwin-Malife and Eddie Jones. His team selection saw Craig King line up in goal behind centre-backs Godwin-Malife and Luke Ruddick, with Jones and Ben Jefford at right and left full back respectively. Josh Ashby and stand-in skipper Reece Fleet patrolled the centre of midfield whilst Kyran Wiltshire and Zac McEachran operated out wide; all supporting strikers Kabby Tshimanga and Matt Paterson.
The first half started slowly and failed to accelerate significantly as it drew on. Tshimanga made headway with the ball at his feet, cutting in from the right to fire a powerful effort over the bar before bursting down the left but failing to find more than the side netting, as City struggled to create any other chances of note.
The visitors, meanwhile, were able to test King – Ross Stearn's long shot forcing a smart save before the City stopper used his body to block an effort from close range following a corner.
The half time scoreline of 0-0 was no less than the game deserved, with neither side having produced any quality chances in the opposing box.
Fortunately for all involved, the second half was when the game kicked into life.
The Hoops leapt immediately onto the front foot as Paterson found himself free of the Bath City defence. With the ball at his feet and time on his side, the prolific striker's finish was tame at best and easily gathered by the experienced Ryan Clarke.
While the following quarter of an hour was devoid of goalmouth action, the standard of play from both sides proved to be significantly better than the first half.
A City free kick on the hour held some promise, Ashby the man to take charge with a curling effort which rounded the wall and clipped the post on its way behind. Bath 'keeper Clarke came out of the incident rather the worse for wear, colliding with the post as he saw the shot wide, leading to a delay as he received treatment.
The brief stoppage proved to be the catalyst for goals, heralding the arrival of two in under 10 minutes.
The first fell the way of the visitors, a sweet cross to the far post finding its Mann, the forward easily outjumping Jefford and planting his header neatly beyond the reach of King to give his side what would be a short-lived lead.
Having already acquainted himself with the woodwork, Ashby went one better with his response in the 69th minute – letting one fly from 30 yards and, with the help of a small deflection, seeing his effort palmed into the net by Clarke.
Stung by the slightly fortuitous equaliser, the Romans wasted no time in getting back on the attack and almost restored their lead within 60 seconds: Sean Rigg gifted a free header no more than 6 yards from goal which he somehow guided embarrassingly wide of the mark.
Despite this let-off, there was no letup in the pressure as the Hoops next had King to thank for keeping the scores level. It was, somewhat unsurprisingly, another good cross which could have been their undoing as Ryan Brunt rose highest at the back post, smartly placing his header in the very bottom corner of the goal only to see King contort himself to claw the ball away from danger. The heroics didn't come without cost however - the City 'keeper taking his turn to require treatment to an apparent back injury sustained as he made the save.
With the flurry of action finally dying down, Mark Jones took the opportunity to shuffle his deck: Arti Krasniqi replacing Ben Jefford and Craig Fassanmade coming on for Zac McEachran in the 81st and 85th minutes respectively.
The subs looked as though they may have done enough to secure the point, Krasniqi in particular pivotal in breaking up two dangerous looking moves. However, the second minute of stoppage time was lit up by a moment of individual excellence.
With the visitors piling on the pressure, the Hoops could only clear as far as the edge of their own area where Raynes, pushing up from full back, was on hand to pick up the loose ball and drive a beautiful strike beyond the helpless King and into the far bottom corner of the net. With precious little time left in which to muster a response, the visitors were comfortably able to see out the win.
Defeat sees City slip down to 17th in the National League South standings, whilst the visitors sit pretty in fifth. Fortunately for the Hoops, next weekend will provide a break from league duties as Cray Valley PM visit in the FA Cup Second Qualifying Round.