Report - Oxford City 1-3 Slough Town
By Oxford City FC
Late Strikes Keep Slough's Playoff Hopes Alive
Slough Town left it late to keep their playoff hopes alive, requiring two late goals to overcome Oxford City.
Mark Jones made just one, forced change to the side which disrupted Concord Rangers' playoff bid last weekend as Josh Ashby missed out through illness. This meant a first start for John O'Donoghue at fullback, joining Eddie Jones, Tarik Moore-Azille and Joe Oastler in protecting Craig King. Ashby's absence also meant a slight reshuffle in midfield with Jack Self and Reece Fleet combining in the centre, behind Brandon Thomas-Asante, and Kyran Wiltshire and Bobson Bawling out wide – all in support of striker Kabby Tshimanga.
In a break from what seems to have become tradition at Marsh Lane, the visitors got off to the stronger start – their pressing preventing the Hoops from working the ball forward effectively.
It took only 6 minutes for the Rebels to take the lead – O'Donoghue caught in possession deep inside his own half and allowing Warren Harris a free run on goal, the winger making no mistakes with his low finish into the far corner.
The shock of conceding so early did little to enliven City who remained on the back foot. Matt Lench and Francis Amartey both forced saves from King whilst the hosts were yet to even muster a shot on goal.
With just over half of the half played, Slough had the ball in the back of the net a second time – George Wells' close range finish coming long after the whistle had gone for a foul on Craig King.
The Hoops eventually found a route forwards, mostly utilising the width provided by Jones' overlapping runs down the right to give Wiltshire space to operate. Fittingly, Jones was the man to finally get the first shot away, taking control of the ball on the edge of the area and striking narrowly over the bar.
Any momentum gained from the attack was, however, lost as the unseasonably high temperatures forced the referee to call for a brief drinks break.
The break was well timed with both sides seeming increasingly sluggish as the half wore on: the Hoops lacking movement in the final third and the visitors having quickly abandoned the pressing which had earned them their opener.
It finally burst back into life in the 40th minute as a rare City venture into the opposing box resulted in Fleet being unceremoniously hauled down. Tshimanga took charge of the resulting spot kick and comfortably sent Jack Turner the wrong way to take his personal tally for the season to 35.
The penalty proved to be the last major drama of the half, meaning the sides went into what must have been a fairly welcome half time break level.
Despite the heat not abating, both sides came out for the second half looking significantly brighter.
The Hoops could have snatched the lead in the 48th minute when Tshimanga latched onto a poor headed backpass. Although the prolific striker beat Turner to the ball, he had his back to goal and was forced to shoot blind on the turn – the ball passing narrowly wide of the far post.
Back at the other end, the visitors' width caused problems for the City defence – a number of low crosses fizzing through the box whilst King claimed everything delivered in the air.
City continued to direct most of their attacks down the right wing where the combination of Jones and Wiltshire looked most likely to produce a clear-cut chance. Just after the hour, Wiltshire was able to beat his man and deliver a low cross which Turner did well to put behind for a corner.
Five minutes later, the Hoops almost went one better. Another attack down the right saw the ball pulled back for Self whose first time piledriver from the edge of the area was somehow palmed over by Turner.
Whilst the hosts had produced the better of the chances in the second half so far, Slough were looking increasingly dangerous as - possibly buoyed by the news of playoff rivals Dartford's demolition in their game - the visitors' far greater desire to get a result began to shine through.
A succession of crosses and corners were dealt with by the Hoops, but served to help the Rebels build their momentum going into the final 10 minutes of the game.
That momentum was finally converted into a goal with 7 minutes remaining. Wells, pushing forwards from defence, found himself with a yard of space on the corner of the City box and took his chance to drive a wonderful effort into the far corner of the net.
Trailing by a single goal, the Hoops already seemed unlikely to claw their way back into the game, but another defensive slip-up ensured the points would go to Slough.
A Craig King kick from the right side of his box was sent straight back at the Hoops, making its way into the right channel via a City head. With the whole defence out of shape and King still on his way back to his goalline, Amartey found himself with an almost clear path to goal. Despite King's best efforts to close the forward down, he was easily beaten and Amartey made his way past two further players before firing into the empty net in a move reminiscent of many a Matt Paterson goal.
Defeat means that the Hoops remain entrenched firmly in the mid-table region of the National League South. Whilst still having nothing of their own to play for, they remain one of the most potentially influential sides in the division as they complete a run of four games against playoff-chasing sides with Monday's trip to Bath City and next Saturday's visit from Dartford.
Oxford City: King, Jones, O'Donoghue (Case 71), Self, Moore-Azille, Oastler, Wiltshire, Fleet, Tshimanga, Thomas-Asante (McEachran 67), Bawling 6 (James 67).
Unused: Caro, Fasanmade