Oxford City were left humbled on the opening day of the 2019/20 Vanarama National League South season as Concord Rangers put three unanswered goals past them at Marsh Lane on Saturday afternoon.
Joel Nouble broke the deadlock for the visitors on the stroke of half-time, before Kreshnic Krasniqi and Joe Gardner added second half strikes to complete the goalscoring.
Following a positive performance away at Cardiff Met University in their final pre-season game, Mark Jones named an unchanged squad to line-up in the first league match of the season.
New signings Finn Tapp, Danny Rowe and Stefan Brown all named in the starting XI, while Nana Owusu was to start on the bench. Tapp was in a centre-back partnership with captain Joe Oastler, while Eddie Jones and Ben Jefford operated as full-back, all four protecting goalkeeper Craig King. Rowe lined up on the left-wing, with Kyran Wiltshire operating on the opposite wing, while Josh Ashby, Jack Self and Reece Fleet – who recently made his 200th appearance for the club – lined up in the centre of the park, all complementing Brown, who operated as lone striker.
It was a sombre start to proceedings as the club remembered long serving club secretary and life vice president John Shepperd, who sadly passed away last weekend.
It was the Hoops that started the better of the two sides and forced their first chance after just four minutes. Self had managed to get in a good position down the centre of the park before he managed to squeeze the ball through to Rowe who had a clear sight on goal on the left-hand side of the box. The winger looked to cut onto his right foot and got the shot away, however he was met by a superb challenge to block the ball.
This was followed by a spell where neither team really threatened either goalkeeper – both sides were rather wasteful in possession, perhaps taking time to really get back used to the intensity of competitive football.
It was just after the half-hour mark that the next chance came around. A clever corner routine saw Ashby drill low to the edge of the box where Rowe flicked on into a crowd. The ball eventually dropped out to where Oastler was waiting, eventually getting a cross back in, before the ball was eventually cleared after a goal mouth scramble.
This was as good as it got for the Hoops as the Beachboys would go on to control the game from there on in.
It was right on the stroke of half-time that the deadlock was eventually broken. After King was unable to hold onto a cross, Nouble was able to pick up the loose ball, before turning and shooting past the stranded keeper. The ball cannoned off the crossbar and down onto the ground. It was a tight decision as to whether the ball had fully crossed the line, but Assistant Referee Ryan Williams raised his flag to signal for the goal.
Both sides had chances within 10 minutes of the restart. Brown looked to have equalised as his goalbound effort was brilliantly blocked on the line, before the Beachboys immediately broke and forced Tapp into a brilliant goal saving tackle on the edge of the box to force a corner, which came to nothing.
Right on the hour, Mark Jones made his first two changes in an effort to turn the scoreline around. Zac McEachran and Nana Owusu were to be introduced in place of Jack Self and Kyran Wiltshire.
It was the latter of the two substitutes who nearly had an immediate impact. Within two minutes of his introduction, he beautifully caught an effort with his left foot just outside the box. Craig Haigh in the Concord goal was well beaten, however was very grateful to see the ball cannon off the upright and away to safety.
With 15 minutes to go, the Beachboys effectively ended the contest, as their second goal came courtesy of Krasniqi. Following a corner, the ball was only cleared out to the wing, where an additional cross came in. Oastler was only able to clear to the Concord midfielder just inside the box, who took a touch before slotting, along with a deflection, past King in the City goal.
The goalscoring was completed with eight minutes remaining. After a pass out of the City defence was partially intercepted, potentially with a hand, the ball fell kindly to the Concord midfield who were able to slot a ball through to Gardner, who was able to reach the ball ahead of King, and coolly slot past the City keeper.
While the scoreline may have looked a little unfair on the Hoops, there is no doubting the harsh lessons they were taught by the Beachboys in finishing chances in a tight match. Despite this, it was only match 1 of 42, and so there is still plenty of time to put things right.
This will start with a trip to Chippenham Town on Tuesday evening for Oxford City’s first away assignment of the season, 3pm kick-off at Hardenhuish Park.
Oxford City: King, Jones, Jefford, Ashby, Oastler, Wiltshire (Owusu 62), Fleet, Brown, Self (McEachran 62), Rowe (Moore-Azille 82), Tapp.
Unused: Caro, Fasanmade.