Report - Hemel Hempstead 2-1 Oxford City
Late Onslaught in Vain for the Hoops
A second-half onslaught from Oxford City was ultimately in vain as they were unable to turn around a two-goal half time deficit against Hemel Hempstead Town, who ran out 2-1 winners at Vauxhall Road on Saturday afternoon.
Zac McEachran did grab a second half goal for the Hoops, however this proved nothing more than a consolation after James Kaloczi and Phil Roberts gave the hosts a two-goal lead at Half Time.
In a week that Carl Stewart and Arti Krasniqi departed the club, Mark Jones was dealt a blow as Udoka Godwin-Malife was ruled out of the match after falling ill during the week. There was, however, good news for the City boss as he was able to welcome back star midfielder Rob Sinclair following a six-week absence through injury. Sinclair was to return to the starting XI as he was named in a midfield also containing Reece Fleet, Josh Ashby and McEachran, all sitting behind a front two of Kabongo Tshimanga and Matt Paterson. Luke Ruddick came in for Godwin-Malife and partnered Joe Oastler in central defence, with Eddie Jones and Ben Jefford operating in the full back roles. Goalkeeper Craig King completed the line-up.
It was the hosts who were to have the first meaningful effort on goal. Billy Clifford was able to get in down the right, however he took on the effort himself from the edge of the box and ended up drifting harmlessly wide of King’s post.
Ten minutes later and the Hoops had a chance of their own to break the deadlock. After Sinclair was fouled in the D, Paterson stepped up, looking to bend a powerful effort into the top corner, however the effort ended up over the bar.
The breakthrough came in the 26th minute. After Phil Roberts forced Craig King into a save from his dinked effort, the corner that resulted was not cleared by the Hoops, eventually falling to Kaloczi who was able to smash across King’s goal and into the back of the net.
Five minutes later and the hosts were able to double their lead. With City failing to catch Steve Cawley offside, the Hemel frontman was able to cross over to the far post when Roberts was unmarked to finish with ease under the City ‘keeper.
The Hoops responded well however, and nearly found themselves a lifeline on 36 minutes. With City putting pressure on the Hemel box, a cross was put onto the edge of the six-yard box. Ismael Yakubu came into clear the ball and ended up slicing his clearance just inches over his own crossbar.
An even better chance was to follow just two minutes after. A ball was played to an unmarked Sinclair in the Hemel box, the midfielder’s shot across Laurie Walker was brilliantly saved by the stopper. The rebound looked to be falling to Paterson however the City talisman was brilliantly tackled as he looked to poke into the empty net.
City continued to pressure the Hemel goal with the view of getting a goal back before the break. McEachran, fresh from his hat-trick last week, was the next City man to have a go at goal. The midfielder picked up possession on the edge of the D, shooting first time. The effort seemed to be heading into the far corner, however Walker got down superbly to push wide.
Right on 45 minutes, the Hoops had their final chance of the half. Another corner saw the ball delivered to the far post where captain Oastler was waiting, however his off-balance header just cleared the crossbar.
The first period would have been sure to have frustrated the City boss with his side carving out a number of chances, however trailing by a two-goal margin at the break. He did make one change to his side at half time as Eddie Jones was replaced at right-back by Kyran Wiltshire.
City left off where the ended the first period, pressuring their opponents’ box in search of a route back into the match. Fleet tested the gloves of Walker just eight minutes into the half, his rasping effort from 30 yards looked to be dipping in, the former City keeper doing superbly to tip it over the bar.
On the hour mark, Mark Jones looked to boost his attacking options as he replaced the returning Rob Sinclair with Craig Fasanmade. His first action of the game was to be the first City name into the book as he was penalised for simulation by referee Dean Skipper.
But five minutes later, we were provided with a collector’s item – A Zac McEachran headed goal. A brilliant ball in from the right found the City midfielder unmarked on the back post, his cushioned header across goal leaving Walker with no chance as it nestled into the net.
This new-found hope really sparked the Hoops into life and within 10 minutes really should have found an equaliser. After the hosts had earned a free-kick, it was given away cheaply which gave City the chance to break up field. Yakubu then tried to head back to Walker from a wide angle, however it was horribly underpowered which allowed Tshimanga to steal the ball, round the ‘keeper and square to Fasanmade, who in turn passed to Paterson who was unable to beat Kaloczi who had rushed back onto the line.
Less than a minute later and it was Paterson who forced another superb save out of Walker. Another cross from wide found the frontman who got a good contact with his header but was met by the Hemel stopper who brilliantly pushed the effort away.
With time running out for City, they were to pull one final chance out of the bag in the 89th minute. McEachran, the Hoops’ outstanding player once again, was left in space just outside the box. He rifled from range again and his effort looked to be heading into the far corner, but once again Walker got across well to push wide.
The five added minutes came and went without City being able to produce any magic to rescue a point, ultimately condemning them to a fourth consecutive league loss, leaving them without a league point in September.
They return to FA Cup action next weekend as they welcome league rivals Dartford to Marsh Lane in the Third Qualifying Round, 3pm kick-off.
Oxford City: King, Jones (Wiltshire HT), Jefford, Ashby, Ruddick, Oastler ©, McEachran, Fleet, Paterson, Tshimanga, Sinclair (Fasanmade 61).
Unused: Caro, Eze, Carter.