Report - Oxford City 1-2 Hungerford Town
Run comes to an end
Oxford City's seven game unbeaten run came to an abrupt end with an underwhelming 2-1 home defeat at the hands of Hungerford Town.
The two sides saw out an even, goalless first half before the visitors took the lead in the 50th minute through Alfie Whittingham. Kabby Tshimanga struck an equaliser soon after, but the Crusaders had the last laugh when Marcus Johnson-Schuster found the bottom corner with 15 minutes remaining.
Mark Jones named a side identical to that which came away from Wealdstone's Grosvenor Vale with three points just three days prior. Craig King lined up in goal, protected by a makeshift central defensive partnership of Udoka Godwin-Malife and Ben Jefford with Eddie Jones and Kyran Wiltshire as fullbacks. Reece Fleet, Jack Self, and Josh Ashby took to the centre of midfield, behind an attacking threesome of Sam Nombe, Bobson Bawling, and Kabby Tshimanga.
The game began with both sides looking to play patient, passing football. The Hoops were the side to have the first shot in anger, Bawling popping up at the far post to beat the 'keeper but not the player on the line, before a misplaced backpass forced Ashby to block Cameron Hargreaves' goalbound effort.
With 15 minutes played, Hungerford 'keeper Michael Luyambula made his first save of the game as Self shot straight down his throat from the edge of the area.
The Hoops' intricate passing in the final third almost paid dividends in the 25th minute, Self's cute backheel into the path of Tshimanga giving the striker the ball in the box but not without the attentions of a defender who did superbly to dispossess him.
The visitors grew into the half well and, by pressing Oxford high up the pitch, were able to create opportunities of their own but struggled to test King.
The Hoops created one final chance on the stroke of half time, Tshimanga getting onto the end of a Jones cross but shooting straight at the 'keeper.
The second half began with the hosts under pressure, a 48th minute corner needing a goalline clearance from Self. Hungerford, however, went one better just two minutes later as Whittingham was set free of the City defence, evading a last-ditch challenge from Jefford to round King and open the scoring.
The lead lasted for just two minutes. Self's long-range effort from out wide proved too hot for Luyambula to handle and the loose ball fell kindly for Tshimanga to smash home.
Despite being back on level terms, the Hoops found themselves struggling to create chances and reduced largely to long balls. Mark Jones looked to shake things up with a change of personnel, Sam Nombe making way for Kunle Otudeko in the 66th minute.
Despite the change, the visitors remained the more threatening side and could easily have restored their lead in the 71st minute when Tom Anderson raced through on goal. This time King was equal to the striker's effort, staying tall to spring to his right and palm the shot away.
Parity however only lasted four more minutes. The Hoops failed to clear a corner and were rightfully punished when Johnson-Schuster rifled the loose ball home from the edge of the area.
City's second substitution followed almost immediately, Craig Fasanmade replacing Bobson Bawling.
Tshimanga looked the most likely player to force a second equaliser, and was unfortunate to see a close-range effort saved at the near post.
With time running out, the Hoops were handed one final chance when Otudeko was felled on the edge of the area. Jefford stepped up to take the set piece left footed, sending his shot over the bar as he optimistically tried to get the ball up and down from such close range.
The referee's final whistle brought to an end a poor day at the office for the Hoops who, in failing to pick up points, slipped back out of the playoff positions. They now face two particularly tricky games with a number of key players missing, first travelling to St Albans on Saturday the 5th of January before making a third attempt at taking on Maidenhead United in the FA Trophy on Tuesday the 8th.