Oxford City were unable to improve on last week’s defeat against Welling United, falling to a second consecutive defeat in the Vanarama National League South - this time against Hemel Hempstead Town, who returned to Hertfordshire with a 2-1 victory.
Daniel Phillips gave the visitors a fifth minute lead on a scorchingly hot day in Oxfordshire. Kyran Wiltshire gave the Hoops hope with a 52nd minute free-kick, however Ricardo German’s 82nd minute goal stole all three points for the Tudors.
Mark Jones opted to make three changes to his starting XI following last weekend’s loss. Finn Tapp, Kyran Wiltshire and Stefan Brown all returned, while Ben Jefford, Jack Self and Craig Fasanmade all took their places on the bench.
Tapp returned at right-back, meaning that Eddie Jones switched wings to line-up at left-back, while Tarik Moore-Azille and Joe Oastler remained the centre-back partnership. All four protected goalkeeper Craig King. Wiltshire lined up on the right-wing, while Nana Owusu started on the opposite wing. Josh Ashby and Reece Fleet covered the central midfield, while Zac McEachran played a more advanced role to compliment lone striker Brown.
Mark Jones will have wanted his side to get a grip of the game early on and get to know the conditions before pushing on and trying to find something from the match.
This plan was almost instantly thrown out of the window as the Hoops found themselves a goal down inside the first five minutes. Joe Oastler was caught in possession just outside his own box, allowing the visitors to get the ball over to debutant Dan Phillips who took a touch before unleashing a shot from outside the box, beating King high into the net to give the Tudors the lead.
In all honesty, the remains of the half lacked a real cutting edge from either side, both perhaps trying to manage their energy levels in the high temperatures.
It was right on the half-hour mark that City registered their first effort on goal. It came from McEachran, whose effort from the edge of the box didn’t trouble Sam Beasant in the Hemel goal, as he watched it past his post.
Eight minutes later, McEachran had a better opportunity to open the scoring. He was able to dispossess Liam Nash in midfield and run through on goal. He wriggled free of the last defender on the edge of the box, but instead of opted to take the ball around Beasant, which left him with a tight angle. Without being able to get any power on his effort, this allowed Connor Essam to get back onto the line, and block the shot for a corner.
With half-time approaching, Tarik Moore-Azille was penalised for a foul just outside City’s box. Mo Bettamer opted to go for goal, despite a tight angle, however he saw his effort head straight at King.
Whatever Mark Jones had said at half-time had seemed to work as the Hoops came out with a lot more intent than in the first period, and looked to try and salvage something from the match early on.
The early stages were dictated by a series of free-kicks, the Tudors having the first of these just outside the box which saw Bettamer force a corner with Tapp having to head the effort behind.
The second saw City go one better. After McEachran was fouled just outside the D, the set piece was left to Kyran Wiltshire who stepped up and curled his effort brilliantly into the top corner of the net, leaving Beasant with no chance in the Hemel Hempstead goal.
Not content with a point, the City bench opted to make an attacking change on the hour. Zac McEachran was the player withdrawn at this point - perhaps protecting him with an eye on Monday’s match – with Craig Fasanmade coming on, setting City up in a more traditional 4-4-2 formation for the final half-an-hour.
With 10 minutes to play, it certainly looked like there was all to play for, with both teams looking to have summoned enough energy to try and look for the win.
A quick break on 80 minutes saw Fasanmade and Brown link up, the latter able to get a shot off, which was deflected on its way towards goal, Beasant getting down and push behind for a corner.
But it was two minutes after that the decisive blow was landed. A long ball over the top was not intercepted by the City defence, allowing German to get in behind and, from a wide position, slot past King to give his side a 2-1 lead.
With just over five minutes to salvage a point, Mark Jones went for one last throw of the dice, as Jack Self replaced Nana Owusu.
Set-pieces looked to be the only way that the Hoops might force the result. A free-kick from wide was delivered onto the penalty spot where Tapp and Oastler were arriving, and while the former got a touch, he was unable to deliver to ball goalwards.
It was a second disappointing Saturday in a row for Mark Jones’ men who fell to a second consecutive reverse, however they don’t have to wait long to try and put this right, as they are back in action on Bank Holiday Monday with a relatively short trip across to Twerton Park to face Bath City, 3pm kick-off.
Next Up for the Hoops faithful at Marsh Lane is a visit from Havant & Waterlooville next Saturday afternoon, 31st August. Don’t forget you can now buy your tickets in advance, by clicking here
Oxford City: King, Jones, Ashby, Moore-Azille, Oastler, Wiltshire, Fleet, Brown, McEachran (Fasanmade 61), Owusu (Self 83), Tapp.
Unused: Jefford, Caro, Wright.