Oxford City ensured that their recent love affair with the Emirates FA Cup continued on Saturday afternoon, as two second-half strikes saw them dispatch league rivals Hampton & Richmond Borough 2-0 at Marsh Lane in the Third Qualifying Round.
A six-minute spell early in the second half that saw Nana Owusu score from the spot, and then Zac McEachran score a brilliant goal, set City on their way to booking their place in the Fourth Qualifying Round for the third consecutive season.
The good news started early for Mark Jones, as he was able to welcome back five players who have been side-lined through injury in recent weeks. Craig King and Zac McEachran would return straight to the starting XI, while Eddie Jones, Stefan Brown and Tarik Moore-Azille would all take their places on the bench.
King returned between the sticks and was protected by a back four that saw Kyran Wiltshire and Ben Jefford operate in the full-back positions, while captain Joe Oastler was partnered by Finn Tapp in the centre of defence. McEachran would return in an attacking midfield role that saw him complement lone striker Reece Beckles-Richards along with Jack Self and Nana Owusu as roaming midfielders, while Reece Fleet and Josh Ashby completed the XI sitting in the deeper roles.
It took until the eighth minute for either side to have a sight of goal, Beckles-Richards had Dan Lincoln interested in an effort, however he was able to see it drift wide of the post.
One minute later and it was the Beavers’ turn to register their first effort of the game, Jake Gray with the effort, however seeing it drift wide of the post.
But it was to be the visitors who forced the first cause for concern for either keeper. Tyrone Lewthwaite was set free by Danilo Orsi-Dadomo, however King was out of his goal quickly for the Hoops, and was able to make himself big to block the resulting shot for a corner.
But with just under half-an-hour on the clock, Hampton should have had a lead. Matt Young was able to cross deep into the box where Dean Inman was waiting, his header beat the City stopper, but thankfully for the Hoops faithful, it went straight across the face of goal and out for a goal-kick.
Straight up the other end, and with a break on through the dangerous McEachran, the midfielder was fouled on the edge of the D, allowing Owusu to step up, however he was unable to beat the wall.
But with the half looking ever likely to finish goalless, the Beavers were able to force one last chance on the City goal. With a ball being delivered from wide, Charlie Wassmer was able to head across to Lewthwaite, whose goalbound header had King well beaten, however Ashby was well positioned on the line to bundle away, and eventually behind for a corner.
Neither manager would have been disappointed with what they’d seen from their sides in the first period, however both would have been looking to try and get a result on the day, rather than looking at a replay.
And it would have certainly been Mark Jones who was the happier manager shortly after the break as his side were able to establish a lead within 10 minutes of the restart.
Following a spell of play up the field, a ball was delivered wide where McEachran was able to pick up, and as he crossed back into the box, it struck the arm of Ryan Hill, referee Isaac Searle pointing to the spot on the advice of his assistant.
Owusu made no mistake from the spot, choosing to rifle his effort straight down the centre of the goal, after Lincoln had committed to his left.
The breakthrough came as a confidence boost to the Hoops, who went on to control proceedings for a period. Two minutes later, Ashby fiercely struck an effort from the edge of the box, and while the shot was good, it drifted just outside of the post.
But the Hoops weren’t to wait long to go one better than this, and in rather brilliant fashion. McEachran decided to go alone in possession just outside the box and, with his tricky feet, was able to get around a number of defenders and, once around the penalty spot, was able to pick his spot perfectly as he slotted into the bottom corner to give his side a two goal cushion.
The visitors were certainly not giving up at that point, and within four minutes of the set back had forced two chances of their own to halve the deficit. Firstly, Lewthwaite was only able to slice an effort to the edge of the six-yard box up in the air and behind, before Gray moments later blazed over the bar in a similar position.
King was made to work for his second consecutive clean sheet, as the Beavers forced a fine save out of the returning stopper with 15 minutes to play. A deep ball fell to Inman, who took a touch before firing a shot at the opposite corner, however City’s stopper read the situation perfectly, and was able to get across and push away for Oastler to clear.
Mark Jones opted to make his three changes in the final 10 minutes as his side looked to keep the visitors at bay. Reece Beckles-Richards, and the goalscoring duo in Nana Owusu and Zac McEachran were the three to make way, while Eddie Jones, Stefan Brown and Tarik Moore-Azille all came on as they completed their returns from injury.
With Hampton pushing forwards, this always left them vulnerable to a counterattack, and Brown was set away in the second of the added minutes, however good defensive tracking saw the Beavers able to get back and clear the ball behind.
Victory means a third consecutive appearance in the Fourth Qualifying Round of the Emirates FA Cup, and as a result, our fixture away at Dorking Wanderers in a fortnight will be postponed in order that this fixture can take place. You can find out who we draw in the next round on Monday 1:30pm, on TalkSPORT 2.
Before we’re back in the FA Cup, there’s a league fixture to be fitted in as Oxford City host Dartford in the MANarama National League South next weekend at 3pm. Don’t forget that as always, you can buy your tickets for that match in advance, just head over to our ticketing portal to get yours now.
Oxford City: King, Jefford, Ashby, Oastler, Wiltshire, Fleet, McEachran (Jones 82), Owusu (Moore-Azille 86), Self, Beckles-Richards (Brown 84), Tapp.
Unused: Gough, Fasanmade, Paul-Jones, Wright.