Oxford City take to the road for the first instalment of their Easter Bank Holiday weekend as they head around the M25 to take on Braintree Town in the National League South. This will be the Hoops’ first ever trip to Cressing Road and will be only the second time the sides have met after the Iron came from behind to win 2-1 at Marsh Lane in early September.
City found themselves on the wrong end of a 2-0 scoreline last weekend as they were beaten in a very closely contested encounter with title chasing Dartford. Elliot Bradbrook opened the scoring, striking the hosts into a 5th minute lead from the edge of the box. The Hoops fought back well following this, but despite several good chances were unable to find an equaliser. The hosts ensured the win 15 minutes from time as Tom Murphy curled home from the edge of the box. Despite the loss, City remained 9 points above the drop zone as Poole Town fell to a late defeat at St Albans City. With just seven games remaining, three more points would certainly go a long way to guaranteeing safety.
Braintree were in action midweek as they made the long trip down to Somerset to face Weston-super-Mare. They found themselves 1-0 down after 62 minutes when Gethyn Hill scored to put the hosts ahead, however a late fight back inside the last ten minutes saw Luke Allen and Ben Wyatt score on 81 and 85 minutes respectively to make sure that the three points returned to Essex. Their weekend fixture saw them pick up a point away at high flying Hampton & Richmond Borough. Things didn’t start well as they had Billy Crook sent off on half an hour, however they found themselves ahead on 78 minutes through Marcel Barrington. Their hosts found an equaliser however as Ben Wynter earned his side a point just three minutes later. The Iron ended with just 9 men as Allen was shown a second yellow card in the 94th minute.
Oxford City fell to defeat, after being a goal up, when the sides met in early September at Marsh Lane as Braintree Town picked up a 2-1 win. Matt Paterson put the Hoops into a 7th minute lead as he confidently finished into the corner from a tight angle. The visitors struck back on 43 minutes after Eddie Jones was penalised for a foul in the box, Billy Crook converting the resultant spot kick. before Phil Roberts completed the comeback on 75 minutes as he managed to squeeze the ball past Jack Stevens into the bottom corner.
There will be little rest for the Hoops following this as they return to action swiftly, welcoming Chippenham Town to Marsh Lane on Easter Monday in the National League South, 3pm kick-off.
Mark Jones is looking at this weekend as key in securing safety:
"We’re looking forward to the weekend, if we can get two positive results this weekend, it would go a long way to securing our safety in the division. We think we’re playing okay at the moment, I thought last weekend against Dartford there were a lot of positives in our performance, and we’ve got to try and replicate a similar sort of performance on Friday."
He knows it’s not going to be an easy task tomorrow:
"Braintree are going well, they are another side who are fighting for those playoff positions, they had a good result during the week at Weston-super-Mare, so it’s not going to be an easy game.
We’ve got to go an approach it with a bit of enthusiasm, so hopefully we can play like we have recently and hopefully we can go and give a good account of ourselves.
The conditions aren’t going to be great tomorrow. The pitch is going to be heavy, but we’ve got to show good attitude. It might not be a day for pretty football but we’ve got to roll up our sleeves, do the basics well, and give ourselves every chance of winning the game.
Braintree are a good side, they try and play football, they’ve got a lot of good players, but we are happy with our form at the moment, we’re looking forward to a weekend of football, and our aim is to try and guarantee our safety."
Finally, he provides some good news about his squad:
"There are no real changes to last week, we’ll be selecting from the same squad as we were last week."