Following a successful FA Cup excursion last weekend, Oxford City find themselves back in National League South away at Eastbourne Borough on Saturday afternoon. The sides have met four times over the past two years since City joined the South division, these matches seeing honours even at a win apiece with two draws. It was 7 years prior to this when the clubs last met, which was in the FA Cup where The Sports won 1-0 at Marsh Lane.
The Hoops finally got back to winning ways last weekend as they progressed in the FA Cup thanks to a 3-1 victory away at Whitehawk. It took a Hawks goal to really get City going on Saturday afternoon: once going behind The Hoops never looked back and ended up convincing winners in Brighton thanks to Reece Fleet's equaliser and a brace from Zac McEachran. This followed two promising league displays which both ended up as 3-3 thrillers, making it three games unbeaten in all competitions.
Eastbourne have started the season well and find themselves in 10th place after the opening 11 fixtures. They also won their FA Cup fixture at the weekend, a thriller that saw them edge out Carshalton 4-3 at Priory Lane. They did, however, lose their previous National League South fixture away at Dartford, which ended a run of eight fixtures unbeaten, a run that saw them win four and draw four.
The last meeting between the two clubs in December 2016 was a significant one for The Hoops as it saw boss Mark Jones take the reigns for the first time. The match was a successful opening for him as Jefferson Louis tapped home the winner in the 82nd minute to see The Hoops to a 1-0 win. The meeting at Priory Lane in September 2016 was less successful as The Hoops succumbed to a 4-0 loss in their disastrous start to the season. Goals from Gavin McCallum, Josh Hare and a brace from Mark Hughes saw the hosts to the win.
The return to National League action will be short lived as The Hoops are back playing in the FA Cup in a week’s time, welcoming Leiston FC from the Bostik League to Marsh Lane for the sides' Third Qualifying Round fixture.
Speaking ahead of Saturday's game, Manager Mark Jones is looking forward to the trip following the FA Cup break:
We’re looking forward to going to Eastbourne this weekend. We’ve had a break from league action last Saturday in the FA Cup which we’ll be looking to take some confidence from into Saturday’s game.
The last two league games we’ve obviously drawn 3-3. We expect it to be a tough game down in Eastbourne, they are a good side, but I think it will be a tight game and it will probably be won or lost on very fine margins. I don’t think there is much in it in this league, I think on anyone’s day any team can beat each other. We want to try and get our performance levels right, we will be working hard tonight (Thursday) in training to try and be ready for Saturday.
However depth in some positions is concerning the City boss:
We are again very short at the back, we are looking to try and bring some defenders in, we’ve been working hard to bring players in this week, but haven’t been able to bring anyone in in this stage. It’s hard to try and find players who are better than what you have already got, there is no point in bringing players into the club that aren’t better just to fill numbers. Lee Henderson isn’t going to be fit this weekend and we’ll also have Freddie Grant suspended so that leaves two defenders out of the side. However, Christian Oxlade Chamberlain and Mo Fofana are back available which is good news for us. We were looking to strengthen at the back but haven’t been able to. We will go there on Saturday with a very similar group to what we have had in the last few weeks.
He then confirmed that there have been a couple of departures over the past few weeks:
Horatio Hirst won’t be figuring for us anymore unfortunately. As he’s on loan from Sheffield United, he wants to be playing regular football, he’s keen to be playing every week but unfortunately, I cannot promise him that. I had a chat with him and he feels that he needs to be playing regular football somewhere else, so we’ve agreed to let him go.
Unfortunately, Jordy Ngathe has also left the club. As a young player, he feels like he needs to go out and get regular football, so he has moved on as well (to Bishops Cleeve).
We would like to thank both players for their efforts for us over the start of the season.
Finally, Mark Jones is hoping for a positive result from Saturday's game:
We are looking forward to Saturday, obviously we don’t like seeing ourselves fourth from bottom but we want to try and see ourselves moving up the table, so we will be trying everything to try and get some points on Saturday.