Oxford City earned their first point of the 2019/20 Vanarama National League South campaign as their second match of the season, against Chippenham Town, ended in a 1-1 stalemate.
Rhys Tyler opened the scoring in the first half for the hosts through his cross-cum-shot, before Stefan Brown netted an equaliser with 12 minutes of normal time remaining, although there was to be a significant amount of added time due to temporary floodlight failure five minutes into the second period.
Despite a heavy 3-0 defeat to Concord Rangers on Saturday afternoon, Mark Jones opted to allow the exact same XI to get things back on track at Chippenham. This would therefore see skipper Joe Oastler take to the field for the Hoops for the 99th time as he took his place in a centre-back partnership with Finn Tapp, while Eddie Jones and Ben Jefford operated in the full-back roles to complete a defence that protected goalkeeper Craig King. Josh Ashby, Jack Self and Reece Fleet – who also recently hit his own landmark of 200 appearances for the club – occupied the centre of midfield, while Kyran Wiltshire and Danny Rowe were the two wingers, both of who were to assist lone striker Stefan Brown.
It was the Hoops who were to force the first real effort on goal. Wiltshire did well down the right hand side and crossed in. The initial effort was blocked, however it fell back kindly for him to strike, however the effort just flew over the bar.
Just six minutes later, and the deadlock was broken, in rather bizarre circumstances. Bluebirds’ right-back, Rhys Tyler was gifted space down the right flank, and was able to put in a cross. Whether intentional or not, this was aimed towards the far post, and with King frantically backtracking, the stopper became tangled with an attacker, and could only watch as the ball nestled in the far corner of his net.
Following this, the hosts controlled possession until half-time, as well as playing almost exclusively in City’s half. However, when the Hoops were able to get the ball, they were able to create a few dangerous passages of play.
A Wiltshire to Rowe combination was looking to be particularly fruitful for City, as their two remaining best efforts of the first period came from that partnership.
The first of these came right on the half-hour mark as Wiltshire managed to beat his man down the right, and put in a dangerous cross to the far post, where his fellow winger looked certain to head home. However, some excellent pressure from the defence saw his header end up just wide of the post.
Having conceded a 45th minute goal on Saturday, the Hoops nearly scored one of their own this time around as once again the two wingers linked up as Wiltshire put in a pin point cross to the penalty spot where Rowe was left unmarked, however he was unable to guide his stooping header into the corner of the net.
Having soaked up plenty of pressure in the first period, Mark Jones will probably have been content in getting into the break at 1-0 down, however the way that his team battled forwards, and created a few dangerous opportunities will have encouraged the City boss heading into the second period.
Despite this, he would have known that the hosts would be attacking with the slope in the second half and so there was still plenty more defending to do in order to keep the Bluebirds’ attack at bay.
City were awarded a free-kick just outside the box inside the opening two minutes of the second period, that Danny Rowe stood over. However it was probably a little too close to get it up and down, and so saw his effort sail over the bar.
Three minutes later, and Nat Jarvis found himself with a clear path at goal after a pass had managed to sucker in the City defence into a single area, however the striker opted to take his effort quickly and could only drag it well wide of the goal.
The 52nd minute saw the Hoops create a chance through a cross once again. Further good work down the right saw the ball head to Ashby who was able to cross into the centre where Self was unmarked however, the ball across goal was marginally too high for the midfielder to head home.
This was the last action of the match before there was a significant stoppage in play due to the failure of the floodlights. Had it happened 10 or 20 minutes earlier, it may have just been okay to carry on the match while they were fixed, however there was just enough darkness around for referee Marc Whaley to insist they were fixed before the game could continue.
Thankfully this was only a glitch and following a reset of the system, the game could continue after a break of around 12 minutes.
The game was to continue with a Chippenham free-kick that was launched into the box, however King was alert and could come out and claim.
The Bluebirds thought they had doubled their lead with 15 minutes of normal time to go. Following a goalmouth scramble after a set piece, a loose ball was slotted home, however the Hoops were relieved to see the offside flag raised.
And they were able to take full advantage.
Almost immediately down the other end, the Hoops had earned a free-kick down the right and, after a few moments of discussing with the referee about where it was to be taken, Jones took it short to Ashby who was then able to cross to Brown on the edge of the six-yard box, who glanced a header into the far corner to not only net his first goal of the season, but Oxford City’s as well.
Mark Jones immediately made his first two changes of the night, with Zac McEachran – who continues his recovery from his knee injury – and Nana Owusu coming on for the remaining time in place of Josh Ashby and Danny Rowe.
Owusu looked to be particularly dangerous for City with his excellent deliveries into the box causing all sorts of issues of the defence.
With five minutes of normal time remaining, his excellent early cross towards the back post was read superbly by a sliding Jones, who was unable to quite get the right contact on the ball to direct it into the bottom corner.
As was not a surprise to anyone in the stadium, there were to be 12 added minutes following the earlier floodlight failure, but it was Chippenham who took more momentum into this period, however were unable to breach a stubborn City defence. David Pratt and Karnell Chambers both fired efforts at the Hoops defence, but ultimately both were seen behind.
It meant that Oxford City had earned their first point of the season in their second game, and had in fact lifted them off the bottom of the Vanarama National League South league table, even though league position matters little at this time of the season.
Boss Mark Jones will have been encouraged by the improvements his team made from Saturday’s outing, but will still be keen to see further improvements on Saturday, as his team make their longest trip of the season with a visit to the south coast and Eastbourne Borough, for their 3pm kick-off at Priory Lane.
Oxford City: King, Jones, Jefford, Ashby (McEachran 79), Oastler, Wiltshire (Moore-Azille 90+10), Fleet, Brown, Self, Rowe (Owusu 79), Tapp.
Unused: Caro, Fasanmade