It’s no secret that 2019 has not been particularly kind to Oxford City with a haul of just one league point across January and February. However, victory over Chippenham last Saturday and a midweek win in the Oxfordshire Senior Cup mean the Hoops go into this weekend's meeting with Hampton & Richmond Borough boasting a 100% record in March thus far.
The visitors come into the game with a record similar to City's: also unbeaten in March owing to a 0-0 draw against Eastbourne Borough, 2019 has yielded just one league win for the Beavers. A morale-boosting Middlesex Charity Cup victory also mirrors the Hoops' own exploits in county competitions, the hosts bagging three goals in a comprehensive victory over Hayes & Yeading.
Going into November's meeting between the two sides, the picture could scarcely have been more different. While not replicating their red-hot league form from September, October had seen the Beavers make great progress in the FA Cup to earn a home tie against Oldham Athletic and the Hoops eagerly anticipated their upcoming trip to Tranmere Rovers in the same competition. With places in such big games up for grabs, players from both sides went into the fixture looking to secure their place in the next week's side.
The first man to do so was Zac McEachran, the young midfielder re-affirming his claim on Rob Sinclair's central attacking spot by powering his side into the lead after just three minutes. Kabby Tshimanga doubled the lead with a tap-in on the half hour before Joe Oastler rose highest to head home a corner in first half stoppage time to send the visitors into the break with a three-goal cushion. A far less dominant second half saw the Hoops pegged back by Jack Connors' long-range screamer before a late flurry of goalmouth action resulted in Kyran Wiltshire adding his name to the scoresheet to make the game safe. Connors scrambled home his second of the game in injury time, but it was mere consolation as the Hoops ran out deserved 4-2 winners.
At half time in the aforementioned game, there was talk amongst the travelling fans of revenge for the 5-0 drubbing suffered towards the end of the 2016/17 season. Having narrowly beaten the Beavers earlier that term (thanks to a solitary Tom Winters goal) and with relegation no longer a concern, Mark Jones saw fit to name a youthful side for what seemed set to be a dead-rubber fixture. The result was a heavy defeat in which the visitors were 4-0 up by half time and the Hoops had to wait until the second half to register a shot on target.
The rout began in the 8th minute with Duncan Culley's sweetly struck free kick before the goalscorer turned goal-maker by setting up Brendan Kiernan for a tap-in. Both players went on to double their personal tallies – Culley rounding Craig Hill to score into an open goal before Kiernan topped off a neat move by calmly beating the beleaguered 'keeper. Whilst the second half was undeniably better for the City backline, a George Essuman own goal proved to be a fitting way to round off their day.
With high-scoring games to report on both this season and the one before last, it feels almost anticlimactic to note that 2017/18's matches yielded just the one goal. That goal was at least controversial: with the assistant flagging for a City free kick, the referee chose to overrule his assistant and allow Ryan Moss' strike to stand. It turned out to be the only goal of the game as the Beavers – who had already had one goal ruled out for offside and a penalty saved - deservedly ran out 1-0 winners on home turf.
Returning to the present, Mark Jones is able to welcome Oxford United loanees Owen James and Albie Hopkins back into his squad, the pair having turned out against the Hoops as part of the youthful Oxford United side which visited Marsh Lane on Tuesday evening. One player from that game who won't be featuring is Craig King, the goalkeeper missing out due to suspension once again with Steven Caro set to deputise.