Oxford City face a difficult challenge this weekend as they welcome unbeaten East Thurrock United to The City Stadium in the National League South. The Rocks won both meetings between the sides last season, triumphing 1-0 at The City Stadium and 2-1 at Rookery Lane. The sides couldn’t have started the season more differently: East Thurrock sitting in 2nd place with 18 points, with The Hoops sitting dangerously in 19th place, above the relegation zone only on goal difference.
Tuesday evening saw another frustrating day for The Hoops who, for the third time this season, saw a 1-0 lead turn into defeat. Two goals in as many minutes saw Bath City recover to take all three points at Twerton Park. City fell to defeat on Saturday to the same scenario as well, Braintree Town turning around a 1-0 deficit to win 2-1 at The City Stadium. Mark Jones added to his squad just prior to Tuesday’s match as Christian Oxlade-Chamberlin, brother of Alex, joined from Portsmouth on loan for six months.
East Thurrock’s start to the season has been remarkable, having dropped only 6 points in their opening 8 fixtures. They were fixtureless on Tuesday night, their last match being Saturday's 1-1 home draw against Wealdstone. This followed two wins against Bognor Regis, where they triumphed 2-0, and then against Dartford, where they won 1-0 away.
A sole James Walker goal in October 2016 was enough to see The Rocks win the first meeting of the season between the sides last term. The game looked destined to end as a 0-0 stalemate, but an incisive break saw the ball crossed to Walker who made no mistake. East Thurrock again ran out winners at Rookery Lane. Femi Akinwande gave them the lead just after Half Time, capitalising on a goal keeping error before Scott Heard doubled the lead on 81 minutes. Sami Khawaja immediately reduced the gap on 82 minutes, but heroic defending prevented The Hoops stealing a point with the last kick of the game.
Following Saturday’s fixture, The Hoops find themselves at home again on Tuesday evening in the National League South as they welcome Weston-super-Mare to The City Stadium.