Report - East Thurrock Utd 0-1 Oxford City
By Oxford City FC
Wiltshire Earns Three Points
Kyran Wiltshire’s 17th minute goal was the difference between Oxford City and East Thurrock United on Saturday afternoon, the Hoops returning to Oxfordshire with maximum points following a windy affair at Rookery Hill.
It’s testament to both goalkeepers that the game only yielded a single goal; both Jack Giddens and Craig King - who registered his 12th clean-sheet of the season – both pulling off superb saves, particularly in the second half, to keep their respective sides in the match.
Heading into the match, City boss Mark Jones made just one change to the side that started against Woking on Tuesday evening. That change was to return to the planned Tuesday lineup – Tarik Moore-Azille having no traffic problems today and therefore replaced the injured Joel Dielna.
He came in and partnered captain Joe Oastler in a central defence that protected goalkeeper Craig King, while Ryan Case moved out to left-back, while Eddie Jones continued at right-back. Further up the field; Reece Fleet, Josh Ashby and Jack Self were the central midfielders, sitting just behind attacking midfielders Kyran Wiltshire and Brandon Thomas-Asante, who were to support 30-goal Kabongo Tshimanga up front.
With weather warnings for wind in place across the south of England, it was always going to be a difficult game, and particularly with the wind heading up the pitch, both defences were guaranteed to have a very tough 45 minutes, at the very least.
The Hoops were to have ‘first use’ of the wind and were quick out of the blocks. As expected with any long kick, Giddens’ goalkick in the 5th minute caught up just inside the half way line, falling to Fleet who in turn played a ball over the top for Tshimanga to get onto. City’s top scorer got to the ball first, taking a touch around the home stopper, who looked to take down frontman. Referee Philip Stayning saw differently however and proceeded to book him for simulation.
City continued to be on the front-foot and were able to force a number of corners in the first period – 8 in total. However, they were just as hard to attack as well as defend, with a number of them sailing straight behind for goal-kicks.
With the pattern of the game developing, it perhaps came as a surprise that the match’s only goal came with very minimal wind intervention. Following another home goal-kick, City got the ball down the right with Wiltshire. He played a one-two with Tshimanga, which saw the winger receive the ball just inside the box. He cleverly managed to cut onto his left foot which nullified the last defender, leaving him the simple task of slotting into the bottom corner.
However, the Hoops knew that the advantage that they’d have in the first period, the hosts would benefit from in the second period, and therefore would need to push to extend their advantage further before the interval.
Seven minutes after the opener, Giddens in the home goal kept his side in it. Tshimanga has taken advantage of a loose ball at the back, he ran through into the left side of the box, his initial shot was brilliantly saved, however the loose ball fell back to Tshimanga, whose second shot was smothered once again by the East Thurrock custodian.
Shortly after the half-hour mark, King brought a reminder that you should never write of a goalkeeper getting on the scoresheet in these conditions. A long kick from the City stopper saw it’s first bounce right on the edge of the opposition’s box, however it was wide, and Giddens had read it perfectly, to gather.
There was to be one final moment in the half for the Hoops on 44 minutes, producing probably the most controversial moment of the match.
City’s final corner of the half saw Ashby whip the ball into the near post. With the home defence scrambling, the ball could only be helped on its way into the roof of the net. The City celebrations were cut short however, with referee Stayning awarding a free-kick for an infringement against the goalkeeper – leaving the Hoops’ faithful behind the goal rather bemused.
Despite this, the Hoops did go into the interval with the lead – however Mark Jones will have known that a 1-0 lead in these conditions is far thinner than any other, therefore he will have known that his defence would have needed to be on top form in the second half, along with his side being effective on the counter attack.
But it was his side that came out stronger in the early exchanges of the second period. The Hoops would force another 7 corners in the second period, and with the ball now swinging towards the edge of the box this half, they were going to add a totally different challenge.
It was Kyran Wiltshire that came closest to doubling the lead early on in the half, he managed to cut in from the right wing and rolled a curling shot towards the far corner. It was certainly on target; however, it was hacked away by the last defender.
With just under 20 minutes to go, a long East Thurrock was headed goalwards by Sam Higgins, it looked to be dipping just under the crossbar, however King got up to superbly tip it over the bar. The resulting corner was an attacking one, however thankfully for the City stopper, he saw it crash off the top of the crossbar.
On the stroke of 80 minutes, the Hoops nearly grabbed a bizarre second. Another corner was delivered to the penalty spot. Moore-Azille got under his header, and on a normal day would have sailed harmlessly comfortably over the crossbar. However, a gust of wind stopped it in its tracks just above the crossbar, causing it to drop straight down, forcing Gibbens and one of his defenders to scramble away to safety.
Five minutes later, and Gibbens once again kept his side in the match. Fleet did well on the edge of the box and manage to ride a few challenges to get into a shooting position. His shot was powerful and heading just inside the post, however the home custodian somehow got a hand out to push around the post.
Heading into stoppage time, and the events of Tuesday still on their minds, it was perhaps inevitable that the Hoops would concede a last gasp chance.
It was once again with the last meaningful touch of the game, a brilliant ball to the edge of the box found Higgins once again, his first-time header towards the top right corner was thankfully off target, which allowed King to kick up field in order for Phillip Stayning to blow the final whistle.
It marked the Hoops’ second consecutive away victory, both with a 1-0 scoreline following the win at Chippenham Town two weeks ago.
The Hoops return to Marsh Lane next weekend as they welcome a resurgent Dulwich Hamlet to Oxfordshire, 3pm kick-off on Saturday afternoon.
Oxford City: King, Jones, Case, Ashby, Moore-Azille, Oastler, Wiltshire, Fleet, Tshimanga, Thomas-Asante, Self.
Unused Subs: Caro, Hopkins, James, Bawling, O’Donoghue.