Report - Billericay Town 2-3 Oxford City
Sam Seals the Deal
A devastating 16 minute spell, spanning the half time interval, saw Oxford City inflict a first home league defeat of the season on title challengers Billericay Town as the Hoops ran out 3-2 winners at the AGP Arena on Saturday afternoon.
The Hoops had to come from behind as Jake Robinson’s 15th minute strike was cancelled out by Kyran Wiltshire, Zac McEachran and Sam Nombe and, despite Ross Lafayette cutting the arrears with a quarter of an hour to go, City held on for a memorable victory.
Following his side’s emphatic 4-0 victory in the FA Trophy the weekend before, Mark Jones made only one change to his line-up, which was enforced upon him due to the injury picked up by Josh Ashby in the second half of last weekend’s match. The City boss opted for a straight swap as Jack Self returned to the starting XI after being cup tied for the previous two fixtures.
He partnered Reece Fleet and Zac McEachran in the centre of the park, while Sam Nombe and Kyran Wiltshire provided the wide options to support lone striker Kabongo Tshimanga. Protecting goal-keeper Craig King were a back four that consisted of full backs Eddie Jones and Ben Jefford, with captain Joe Oastler and Udoka Godwin-Malife in the central positions.
There was also a first appearance on the bench for another academy graduate as Mark Jones signed young defender Ben Barrett on National League forms over the past seven days.
It was the hosts that started brightly as they forced two great chances in the opening two minutes. The first saw a cross find Sam Deering unmarked in the box, his touch and shot was brilliantly read by King who was able to get down well to push away. The follow-up fell to Billy Clifford who was unable to find the target from a good position as he dragged his shot wide.
Despite the hosts having the better of the opening ten minutes, it was the Hoops that forced the next meaningful save. Following a corner, the ball fell to Fleet midway in the Billericay half. His excellent volleyed pass found McEachran out wide who crossed to the far post where Tshimanga was unmarked, the frontman’s initial effort was well smothered, however on the rebound he forced Alan Julian to push onto his post for a corner, which came to nothing.
Just four minutes later, the hosts were able to make their early dominance count. A corner was delivered in to the penalty spot where Joseph Kizzi headed towards goal, Jake Robinson perhaps getting the last touch a couple of yards out as the ball nestled into the bottom corner.
With their heads up, the hosts pushed hard for a second and came close in the 21st minute as Deering fired wide when he found space once again, before Lafayette was inches away from guiding the ball in on half an hour to double the lead.
However, with three minutes to go until the interval, City pulled themselves level. A great move saw McEachran in possession down the left flank, he was able to square to Wiltshire who fired with precision through a sea of bodies into the bottom corner to provide a hammer blow to the hosts just three minutes before the break.
City weren’t done there. Within two minutes of the restart, they found themselves ahead, albeit in rather bizarre fashion. An inswinging McEachran corner looked set to be claimed by Alan Julian, only for Lafayette's touch to put it out of the goalkeeper's reach. A defender was able to hack the loose ball away but the assistant referee's raised flag indicated that the clearance had come too late, the ball having already crossed the line.
You may think that City would have settled for a 2-1 lead against a side fighting for the title, however a further 11 minutes later they would give themselves a two goal cushion. In a way, it was almost as bizarre as the second. Self was initially played through one-on-one with Julian in the Billericay goal, however the keeper did superbly to get down to the midfielder’s shot. The rebound fell to Tshimanga who placed a shot past the despairing dive from the ‘keeper, however his effort cannoned off the post, falling into an area that found the run of Nombe who was finally able to rifle the ball home to make it third time lucky for the Hoops.
It took 10 minutes before the hosts could test City’s defence once again as they forced a corner, which Modeste could only head over the bar.
The final 17 were made tense for the Hoops however, as Billericay were able to pull a goal back on 73 minutes. Lafayette earned possession in the City box before shooting, forcing an excellent save from King, the rebound falling straight back to the striker who made no mistake by rifling into the roof of the net.
Mark Jones did bring some reinforcements on for the latter stages of the match as Sam Nombe was replaced by Bobson Bawling in the 74th minute, before Kabby Tshimanga was replaced by Craig Fasanmade in the 80th minute.
Between these two changes, City were able to force another chance on the break. A ball over the top found Tshimanga in a wide position, he found McEachran who provided support on the edge of the box, his curled effort just clearing the bar.
With the Hoops defence just about coping with everything that Billericay could throw at them in the final stages, there was one final chance for the hosts to level in the 4th minute of added time. Robinson was able to get into the City box and powered a shot towards the top corner, however King once again came to the Hoops’ rescue as he tipped behind superbly for a corner. The set piece did find a Billericay man, however it was blasted over the bar.
City held on for a seventh win of the campaign putting themselves 12 points clear of the drop zone and, more importantly, just five points off of the playoffs.
Oxford City have a week off now until their next fixture as they welcome Truro City to Marsh Lane on Saturday afternoon for another National League South fixture, a 3pm kick-off.
Oxford City: King, Jones, Jefford, Self, Godwin-Malife, Oastler, Nombe (Bawling 74), Fleet, Tshimanga (Fasanmade 80), McEachran, Wiltshire.
Unused: Caro, Otudeko, Barrett