Report - St Albans City 1-0 Oxford City
Saints Steal it Late
By Ryan Bratley
In form St Albans City left it late to secure a 1-0 victory over a severely depleted Oxford City side.
Despite the Hoops striking the woodwork twice, an exciting game seemed set to end 0-0 right up until David Moyo rose highest to head home an 86th minute corner.
With three players unavailable due to injuries or suspensions and Sam Nombe having departed at the end of his loan spell, Mark Jones was forced to select a team from a squad of just 14 players. Young defenders Tom Carter and Udoka Godwin-Malife made up half of Craig King's backline, joined by the more experienced figures of Eddie Jones and Ben Jefford. A midfield three of Reece Fleet, Josh Ashby, and Jack Self joined them, behind wingers Craig Fasanmade and Bobson Bawling, and lone striker Kabby Tshimanga.
The Hoops had the better of the early chances, Tshimanga shooting wide from a tight angle after rounding Saints' Keeper Dean Snedker in the 7th minute before Bawling cut inside and tried his luck five minutes later.
The hosts, meanwhile, looked to cause havoc in the box with Tom Bender's long throws, requiring some stout defending from the City defence to block Michael Clark's volley.
Back at the other end, Lewis Knight was booked for holding Fasanmade as the Hoops looked to break.
The deadlock was very nearly broken in the 15th minute when a mixup between Snedker and Dave Diedhiou saw the latter head against his own post.
The game ebbed and flowed for a period with neither side testing the opposing 'keeper, King making light work of Moyo's tame free kick and Fleet firing comfortably over from the edge of the area rare highlights in an otherwise drab conclusion to the half.
Thankfully, an exciting second half more than made up for the first with plenty of goalmouth action at both ends of the pitch.
Within five minutes of the restart, City had struck the woodwork for a second time. On this occasion it was Fleet who let fly a curling effort from the edge of the area, easily beating Snedker only to come back off of the inside of the post and fall to safety.
A new pattern to City's attacking play quickly emerged with Tshimanga the man tasked with getting the ball down in the final third. In the 57th minute he did just that, charging out wide to deliver a low cross for Fasanmade whose shot from six yards was somehow deflected behind.
The hosts, meanwhile, looked to capitalise on their size advantage in the City box with more long throws and corners. The latter almost brought the much-needed breakthrough in the 60th minute as a whipped delivery somehow made its way across the face of King's goal without either side getting a touch.
Three minutes later, Tshimanga looked to be clean through on goal before being brought down from behind on the corner of the six yard box. The officials, however, were unmoved by the appeals for a penalty and instead awarded the Hoops a consolatory corner.
With 15 minutes remaining and the game firmly in the balance, City finally had the ball in the back of the net. Unfortunately, the offside flag was raised as Tshimanga raced onto a ball through the right channel and beat Snedker.
The end-to-end battle continued as Jefford somehow produced a last-ditch tackle to dispossess Sam Merson in the box, City breaking for Tshimanga to flash a teasing ball right across the face of goal.
Mark Jones made his first, and only, substitution in the 84th minute: Kunle Otudeko replacing Craig Fasanmade.
With five minutes remaining it looked as though King was set to save a point for his side as he raced off of his line to deny substitute Khale Da Costa, but his hard work proved to be in vain as, just moments later, Da Costa delivered the ball back into the box for Moyo to head home at the far post.
With so little time remaining and a tired City side visibly flagging, the hosts had little trouble seeing the rest of the game out.
Defeat sees the Hoops drop to 10th, leapfrogged by their hosts who now sit just one point adrift of the playoff positions. By failing to score today, City end an impressive run of 15 league games without finding themselves on the wrong end of a shutout – keeping five clean sheets of their own during that period.
Mark Jones now faced another tough test as his side travel back to Maidenhead United for a second attempt at completing the FA Trophy tie originally played last year. The original fixture saw the Hoops leading 1-0 in treacherous conditions at York Road, only for the game to be abandoned deep into the second half.