Oxford City made Wealdstone work hard to maintain their 100% record at Grosvenor Vale, frustrating their hosts in an entertaining stalemate before eventually succumbing to Michee Efete's 83rd minute winner.
The Stones came into the match on a run seven consecutive wins in which they had averaged almost three goals a game, but struggled to find a way past a committed City backline – eventually relying on a set piece to break the deadlock.
Mark Jones came into the game with a depleted squad as Tarik Moore-Azille was deemed fit enough only for a place on the bench. This meant a start for Finn Tapp at centre half where he partnered Joe Oastler, the pair flanked by Eddie Jones and Ben Jefford at fullback. Luton Loanee Harry Isted looked to follow up his debut clean sheet as he made his second start in the City goal, whilst Jenson Wright made his Hoops debut alongside Josh Ashby in the Centre of the park. Zac McEachran and Jack Self provided the attacking flair in midfield, supporting forwards Craig Fasanmade and Stefan Brown. Moore-Azille was joined in the dugout by the returning Ben Barrett, and youth prospects Rhys King and Tyan Hawkins were handed their first tastes of first team football to round out the bench.
As the game kicked off, City fans may have encountered fanciful flashbacks to last season's game at Grosvenor Vale and Kabby Tshimanga's bizarre early goal after just 4 minutes. This time, however, supporters of both sides were made to wait a little longer for some goalmouth action - Jacob Mendy winning the ball deep in the City half before firing straight down Isted's throat when well placed to score.
Whilst both sides huffed and puffed, neither 'keeper was meaningfully tested again until the 20th minute. The ever-lively McEachran won City a free kick on the edge of the area and Ashby stepped up, finding a gap in the home side's defences to drive a curling effort goalwards which drew an excellent save from Aston Oxborough.
Five minutes later, another Ashby free kick – this time a little farther out – was once again driven goalwards, passing narrowly wide of Oxborough's top corner.
The rest of the half brought few chances of note, the Hoops struggling to find their forwards as a succession of balls over the top ran down the slope and through to the 'keeper.
The half time break proved to be an extended one as an unusual substitution took place: an injury to one of the match officials necessitating that a replacement be found from the stands.
With a new Assistant Referee in place, the Stones wasted no time in their search for the opening goal. Damien Lewis broke free down the left wing but found Isted to be quick off of his line to smother his shot and even quicker getting back on his feet to beat away the second.
The early chance set the scene for a livelier, end-to-end half. In the 55th minute, Ross Lafayette did well to latch onto a through ball before firing wide of the far post. The resulting goal kick saw the ball worked to Self, his ambitious attempt to lob Oxborough yielding the same result.
The game took a more controversial turn in the 72nd minute when the Stones had a passionate appeal for a penalty turned down, the ensuing exchange between the players involved resulting in bookings for Oastler and Lewis. Three minutes later, Phil Roberts took his turn to try a lob from range, also failing to find the target, before seeing his cross-come-shot from a wide position skim the top of the bar.
With the game looking increasingly unlikely to finish 0-0, the goalmouth action only intensified as the game entered the final 15 minutes.
First, a quick passing move from City allowed Fasanmade some time and space in the box – his low cross somehow passing between Brown's legs as it made its way across the face of goal. Moments later, a Hoops corner picked out Oastler whose powerful header beat Oxborough but not the player on the line.
The Stones' response was almost immediate. Two superbly timed tackles in midfield weren't enough to stop their advance, a cross eventually finding Danny Green whose header forced an excellent save from Isted. The resulting corner provided the long-awaited breakthrough. The Hoops failed to clear their lines, allowing Efete to bundle home from close range.
Whilst the Hoops looked to get on the front foot in search of an equaliser, the hosts were effective in ensuring they were unable to establish a rhythm in the closing stages.
Oxford City: Isted, Jones, Jefford, Ashby, Oastler, Wright, Brown, McEachran, Self, Fasanmade, Tapp.
Subs (all unused): Moore-Azille, Barrett, R. King, Hawkins.