Report - Oxford City 2-1 Dartford
By Oxford City FC
City End the Season on a High
Oxford City ended their league campaign on a high, producing a spirited second half comeback to deny Dartford a spot in the playoffs.
The Hoops dominated possession in the first half, but fell behind when an unmarked Ronnie Vint headed home from close range. The introduction of Zac McEachran, however, saw the hosts equalise within five minutes of the restart before Kabby Tshimanga grabbed what turned out to be the winning goal with half an hour remaining.
Having rotated his squad over a busy bank holiday weekend, Mark Jones tinkered with his lineup once again. Craig King retained his place in goal, protected by a three man defence of Ryan Case, Tarik Moora-Azille, and captain Joe Oastler. Ahead of them sat Reece Fleet and Jack Self, flanked by Kyran Wiltshire and Bobson Bawling, with Brandon Thomas-Asante supporting lone striker Kabby Tshimanga
Both sides' best first half chances came from set pieces – Darts stopper Louis Wells almost making a mess of a low, driven corner at his near post before King fumbled a delivery at the other end.
Similarly, the visitors found their breakthrough from a free kick. Ryan Hayes' far-post delivery drew King off of his line and lax marking left Vint free to head into the unguarded net.
Going into the break, proceedings elsewhere meant that the Darts were set to snatch 7th place and, therefore, a coveted playoff place.
Mark Jones' introduction of McEachran, however, changed the face of the game – the midfielder replacing Tarik Moore-Azille as his side reverted to a more familiar 4-5-1.
It took just four minutes for the youngster to make an impact – smashing a dipping drive over Louis Wells and into the back of the net.
The Hoops took the momentum and ran with it. Just minutes after the restart, Thomas-Asante came within inches of giving his side the lead with a viciously swerving shot crashing which crashed off of the inside of the post.
Tshimanga, however, was able to go one better.
With the Darts pinned in their own half, patient buildup found the ball at Tshimanga's feet. City's tops corer took his chance to turn his marker and burst into the box, coolly slotting under Wells to deal a huge blow to the visitors' playoff dreams.
A shellshocked Dartford struggled to regroup and, with their own fans beginning to turn against them, continued to allow the Hoops to create chances to test Wells.
The Darts stopper though was equal to everything which was thrown at him - Tshimanga, Thomas-Asante, and substitute Craig Fasanmade all denied by the sprawling goalkeeper's legs.
At the other end, meanwhile, the defence comfortably dealt with a series of aimless long balls as the onslaught they were expecting never came.
The visitors were able to produce a final rally in the four minutes of added time, a string of corners eventually coming to nothing as Craig King's flying punch finally cleared the danger.
Victory for the Hoops saw them pass Chippenham Town to finish in 12th place. The result, however, had far greater ramifications further up the table as Dartford's defeat allowed Wealdstone to leapfrog three sides and steal the final playoff position.
With the league campaign over for another season and three of the four the end of season awards Safely stowed in Kabby Tshimanga's trophy cabinet, we now look forward to one final outing as the Hoops face up to Banbury United in the final of the Oxfordshire Senior Cup. The Hoops go into the game as both holders and hosts, Marsh Lane the venue this Tuesday, the 30th of April.
Oxford City: King, Self, Case, Ashby, Moore-Azille (McEachran HT), Oastler, Wiltshire, Fleet, Tshimanga, Thomas-Asante, Bawling (Fasanmade 73)