Oxford City recorded their second 1-1 draw in the space four days, as their longest trip of the season to Eastbourne Borough ended a goal apiece at a very blustery Priory Lane on Saturday afternoon.
The weather conditions would end up dictating large periods of the match, with a heavy wind certainly aiding the side attacking the far end of the ground.
The game actually took a similar course as that at Chippenham Town on Tuesday evening, as the hosts took a first half lead, before the Hoops struck back in the second half.
Even the opening goal was similar, as Kristian Campbell’s cross from wide found its way into the back of the net, however Zac McEachran struck his first goal of the season from a matter of yards after the break.
Having named the same XI in the first two matches of the season, Mark Jones opted to make two changes to his team this weekend, with a heavy schedule over the next few weeks in mind. Ben Jefford and Danny Rowe were the two players to make way, while Nana Owusu was to make his first competitive start for the club, while Tarik Moore-Azille made his first start of the season.
The latter was to take his place in a different looking City defence, as he was to join a centre-back partnership with captain Joe Oastler, who was making his 100th competitive appearance for the club. Finn Tapp moved out wide to line up as right-back, while Eddie Jones switched sides to take his place at left-back. All four were to protect goalkeeper Craig King. In midfield, it was a straight swap on the left wing as Owusu switched with Rowe, while Kyran Wiltshire remained on the right wing, with central midfielders Reece Fleet, Josh Ashby and Jack Self all lining up in those positions once again. The midfield complemented lone striker Stefan Brown, who lined up on his 30th birthday.
With the hosts attacking with the wind in the first half, it perhaps came with little surprise that they started on the front foot. It was in the sixth minute that the Hoops defence was first tested as Nick Wheeler found Elliott Romain, whose shot was blocked by Moore-Azille for a corner, that came to nothing.
Ten minutes later and King was tested for the first time as Greg Luer was able to swivel and shoot on the edge of the box, however his effort was straight down the City stopper.
He was forced into a much better save in the 23rd minute after a poor clearance from the keeper fell to Kane Wills, whose shot was headed towards the bottom corner, but King got down well to tip around the bar.
Despite heading against the wind in the first half, this did not stop the Hoops getting forward, and on 26 minutes were able to create their first opening of the match. A good move down the right saw possession switch between Wiltshire, Fleet and Brown, the latter able to get a ball into the box to Fleet, whose glancing header ended up just wide of the goal.
Normal service was resumed after this, with Eastbourne controlling possession. There was a massive let-off for the Hoops on 36 minutes as a poor back-pass was intercepted by Luer who was able to take past King, however he took it wide and could only get the ball back across goal. Tobi Adebayo-Rowling was on hand to rifle towards goal powerfully, however it was superbly blocked on the line by Jones, before it fell to Romain, who could only scuff his shot wide of the post.
But two minutes later, things did get better for the Sports. Unsurprisingly the wind had a part to play in the goal, as a cross from Campbell in a wide position would have ordinarily been a regulation header away for Jones in the centre of the box, however the wind carried it over the left-back’s head and King could only watch helplessly as it nestled in the far corner.
While he was obviously prefer his side to be ahead, or at least level, Mark Jones would not have been too disappointed going into the interval just a single goal down, in the knowledge that they would be able to assert some of their own pressure in the second period with the wind headed in their favour.
This certainly looked the case as the Hoops forced Tom Hadler into his first saves of the match within five minutes of the restart. Both were rather comfortable for the stopper as he was able to get down to stop Oastler’s effort following a corner, before a couple of minutes later, Self had a deflected effort just outside the box that required a save.
The hosts, however, settled against the wind better than the Hoops had done in the first half, and were still able to cause issues for the City defence. Jones was the first name into the book as he felled James Ferry on the edge of the box, the free-kick heading just wide of the post.
Then right on the hour, another free-kick was floated to the edge of the box that was headed onto Romain, however the frontman was unable to direct his effort on target.
It was at this point that Mark Jones opted to make his one, and only change of the match. Influential midfielder Zac McEachran was called upon as he was to replace Kyran Wiltshire.
His impact was quickly seen as he managed to play a big role in City’s two next big chances. The first saw the midfielder carry the ball forward and he was then fouled. The referee opted to play advantage as Tapp picked up the loose ball, driving towards the edge of the box before letting fly, his effort requiring Hadler to tip over the bar for a corner, which came to nothing.
He wasn’t the creator of the second chance, but he certainly provided the critical touch. Owusu flicked on well down the left for Jones to run onto. The full-back drove on into the box before he was able to place a ball across the face of goal, finding an unmarked McEachran running in, leaving the midfielder with a simple tap-in to level the scores.
Things got rather heated in the aftermath of the goal as Hadler found his name in the book for his reaction to Brown trying to retrieve the ball.
The goal seemed to calm City down a bit as they managed to control a spell of possession, keeping pressure on the hosts defence. They were unable to create anything again until the 83rd minute as Hadler couldn’t hold an Owusu shot, the rebound falling to Jones whose curling effort went marginally wide of the far post – perhaps just a gust of wind away!
City were certainly not going to be awarded an easy ride to the full-time whistle. The hosts could have snatched it with one of the last kicks of the match as Luer was able to put a very dangerous ball across goal to Ferry who, thankfully for the Hoops defence, was unable to guide his effort goalwards.
So, after two successive draws on the road, Oxford City return to Marsh Lane on Tuesday evening as Hampton & Richmond Borough make the trip up to Oxfordshire for another Vanarama National League South fixture. Kick-off is at 19:45.
Oxford City: King, Jones, Ashby, Moore-Azille, Oastler, Wiltshire (McEachran 61), Fleet, Brown, Owusu, Self, Tapp.
Unused: Jefford, Caro, Fasanmade, Rowe.