Pictured: Craig Fasanmade caused the Weymouth defense all sorts of problems, earning himself the sponsors Man of the Match award.
By Ryan Bratley
Oxford City recorded their first clean sheet of the season as they played out a cagey 0-0 draw against newly-promoted Weymouth.
Coming into the game on the back of a 3-0 defeat in which first choice 'keeper Craig King was forced off with a worsening knee injury, City fans may have feared the worst were it not for Mark Jones' last-minute signing of Luton Town's Harry Isted on loan - the highly-rated young stopper coming straight into the team. He was protected by centre halves Joe Oastler and Tarik Moore-Azille, with Eddie Jones and Ben Jefford at fullback. A compact midfield featured Josh Ashby, Reece Fleet, Jack Self, and Zac McEachran; all operating behind forwards Craig Fasanmade and Stefan Brown.
The Hoops came closest to making the early breakthrough when, in the 7th minute, heavy pressure on the opposing defence saw Fasanmade win possession deep in enemy territory. The resulting cross from Self was spilled by goalkeeper Calum Ward whose blushes were eventually spared by Calvin Brooks' last-ditch clearance.
At the other end, the Terras quickly identified City's left wing as their best avenue of attack but were frustrated by stout defending in and around the box which limited them to half chances. Brooks, Lionel Ainsworth, and Ollie Harfield all tried their luck, each failing to trouble Isted.
City, meanwhile, found their success more centrally with the energy of Fasanmade and McEachran the catalyst for most attacks. Both players had sight of goal around the 20-minute mark; McEachran's drive requiring a good catch from Ward before Fasanmade shot narrowly wide of the post.
It was a similar story for Fasanmade 10 minutes later when the forward once again won possession in the opposing half, producing another low effort which saw the 'keeper scrambling to see the ball wide.
With just over half an hour played, Mark Jones was forced into an unplanned change as Tarik Moore-Azille limped off to be replaced by Finn Tapp.
An otherwise end-to-end half threatened to peter out as both defences fully asserted themselves, but a 43rd minute corner almost put an exclamation mark on the opening 45 minutes. A delivery from City's right wasn't immediately cleared, allowing Jake McCarthy a snap-shot on goal which cannoned back off of the underside of the bar.
The half time whistle blew with the game right in the balance - both sides having created chances, although the visitors' near miss by far freshest in spectators' memory.
The second half began much as the second had threatened to end, the opening five minutes punctuated only by Fasanmade's under-hit effort. The pattern did, however, repeat itself as the Hoops nearly made the most of a goalmouth scramble – the Terras failing to deal with a long throw into their box, the ensuing chaos ending in a vital header off of the line.
With 15 minutes remaining and both sides feeling that the game was potentially there for the taking, Mark Jones shuffled his deck with an attacking double substitution: Craig Fasanmade and Stefan Brown making way for Kyran Wiltshire and Nana Owusu.
The change, however, didn't have the desired effect as the visitors looked the more likely side to score in the closing stages. Substitute Yemi Odubade looked likely to be the difference for the Terras, regularly finding time and space on the right wing but failing to deliver a quality ball into the box.
With the Terras pressing hard for a winner, the City defence's resolve was thoroughly tested. It was a test they passed with flying colours as all four members put their bodies on the line with vital blocks in and around their own penalty area, Oastler in particular standing out with two excellent, last ditch challenges. Despite the pressure, debutant 'keeper Isted found himself with little to do but maintaining his concentration to confidently claim two late corners.
The reward for their hard work was twofold; a deserved point allowing the Hoops to maintain their position in the league table, and their first clean sheet of the season providing a valuable boost to their confidence going forward.
Next up for the Hoops is a trip down the M40 on Saturday afternoon to face league leaders Wealdstone at Grosvenor Vale, 3pm kick-off.
Oxford City: Isted, Jones, Jefford, Ashby, Moore-Azille (Tapp 33), Oastler, Fleet, Brown (Owusu 75), McEachran, Self, Fasanmade (Wiltshire 75).
Unused: Caro, Wright.