Oxford City defied the odds to earn their first away win of the season as they came back from a one goal deficit at half-time to win 2-1 on Bank Holiday Monday at Bath City’s Twerton Park.
After Tom Smith gave the Romans a 25th minute lead, the Hoops were unable to force anything before half-time, however they landed their killer blows afterwards as Tarik Moore-Azille headed the leveller on 50 minutes, before Stefan Brown’s penalty with 15 minutes to play proved to be the winner.
With this being the second match in 48 hours, Mark Jones opted to freshen his squad up a little heading into the match. He opted not to risk Zac McEachran from the outset twice in one weekend following his long layoff through injury, and so he dropped to the bench along with Nana Owusu.
Ben Jefford and Jack Self returned to the starting XI, as Mark Jones opted to try something a little different than City fans are used to. Jefford returned to left-back, where he was partnered by Finn Tapp, who operated on the opposite flank, while Joe Oastler and Tarik Moore-Azille were deployed as the central defenders, who all protected goalkeeper Craig King. Saturday’s left-back, Eddie Jones – who was making his ‘Ice Cream’ appearance (99) for City – was moved into a more advanced role, as he lined up as left-winger, while Kyran Wiltshire remained on the right-wing. Self returned into his favoured central midfield role, along with Josh Ashby and Reece Fleet, while Stefan Brown lined up as the lone striker.
With both sides having played tough matches on Saturday in searing heat, it was perhaps understandable that the match didn’t have the quickest of starts. The opening 20 minutes barely produced a clear-cut effort on goal, however both sides had corners, that effectively ended in nothing.
The hosts then turned a screw and took control of the first period, largely thanks to the opening goal which arrived on 25 minutes. Tyler Harvey did brilliantly inside the City box as he managed to turn his man, before drilling a cross along the six-yard box to where Tom Smith was waiting at the far post to slide the hosts into the lead.
The lead could have been doubled ten minutes later as, in similar circumstances, a cross was turned goalwards. Goalkeeper King was stranded on his near post, however Tapp had managed to get back onto the line and was able to turn the ball away from danger.
The Romans were able to force a series of corners towards the end of the half, which the Hoops struggled to defend. The majority were cleared behind for a further corner, however the closest the hosts got to doubling their lead was a corner that was headed to the edge of the box where Smith smashed goalwards, however it flew just wide of the post, with the help of a deflection to allow City to breathe again.
It was certainly one of those circumstances that City would have been glad to hear the half-time whistle, despite a one-goal deficit. With 15 minutes to re-group and with instructions from Mark Jones, they would be able to perhaps launch a retaliation in the second half.
City’s boss opted to make one half-time change in order to change his side’s fortunes - influential midfielder Zac McEachran was introduced, while Finn Tapp was withdrawn. With this, Jones returned to his normal right-back position in order to fill the gap left in defence.
McEachran’s influence was immediately obvious as he was influential in earning City a corner within five minutes of the restart. It was cleared to the edge of the box, however good work saw the ball distributed back to a wide position where Ashby was able to deliver back into the box, where Moore-Azille was waiting in the centre for a very simple header to make it 1-1, in the process regaining the outright lead of the City goalscoring charts for 2019/20.
While the Hoops were certainly looking a much greater threat heading forwards in the second period, the hosts were still hunting for the three points themselves. They nearly re-took the lead on 65 minutes as Smith was able to break free of the City defence and run towards the box, however Jones was very quick to get back from right-back and managed to put enough pressure on the midfielder, whose eventual shot was weak, and straight at King.
Mark Jones was certainly not giving up the match either as he made his second, and final change just moments after. Craig Fasanmade came on to add some pace to City attacks, as he replaced Kyran Wiltshire.
Before he could have any real influence on the match, the hosts tested the Hoops defence once again as a shot from distance had King well beaten in the City goal, however he was relieved to see the ball cannon off the outside of the post and out for a goal-kick.
The response up the other end was almost instant. McEachran had earned possession and charged forwards. He had Fasanmade as an option through the centre, but with the forward maybe moving a fraction early to put him in an offside position, he opted for a longer ball through to Brown. The forward was able to take a touch into the box where he was them clumsily felled by Joe Raynes, referee Ross Martin with little hesitation in pointing to the spot.
The forward stepped up to take the spot-kick himself, waiting for Ryan Clarke to commit before sliding the ball into the opposite corner.
The hosts forced a series of corners once again in hunt of an equaliser, however King was alert and able to claim on a number of these.
With the hosts committing men forwards, this left opportunities for the Hoops on the break. Fasanmade came closest for City as he made space for himself outside the box, however his effort ended over the bar.
Despite late pressure in the five added minutes, the Hoops were able to hold on to record their first away win of the 2019/20 campaign, their second overall win. Next up for the Hoops is a visit from Havant & Waterlooville on Saturday afternoon, a 3pm kick-off at Marsh Lane.