Oxford City 4 County 1 : Conference North
Just when you think things are about to get better, and that it cannot possibly get quite as bad again....it does, as County came down from the relative riches of a 1-0 lead ,established after just 60 seconds, to concede four goals and the game in a thoroughly depressing second half display against Oxford City.
For a time that goal looked like possibly being a platform to build a decent win on, but that proved to be yet another illusion, as City levelled the score 12 minutes later, scored an improbably good goal 10 minutes into the second half before running away with the game after Charnock had been somewhat unluckily sent off for a foul on Mike Symonds just beyond half way. For my money Charnock definitely fouled his man ,but I felt it was clumsy rather than deliberate, and bearing in mind the number of hairy chested limb threateners that came County`s way early on without similar sanction, it rather irked a bit! Opinions mattered not in the final analysis though....the situation was as it was.......County were down to 10 and up against it.
Liam Dickinson came on not long after, but it was a big ask to think he could rescue us, and County`s move to 3 at the back ( O`Halloran , Tunnicliffe and Jacobs) always looked problematical, and when 2 further goals went in past Ryan Jones, it really was no surprise, indeed 4-1 probably flattered us in the end!
Earlier the journey down on the Flyer was riven with tension in the knowledge that there was to be a pitch inspection at the Charter Standard Community Stadium at 11 o`clock. This morphed into 11.45 and no decision had been made when we arrived just after 13.00. The conditions, thanks to hard work from the local Club, looked very playable to me and, despite heavy cloud cover and some further rain, that is how it was!
There was no Turner in the County starting line up, so Gosset came in for a midfield spot. Jones kept his place in goal, but Liam Dickinson had to be content with a place on the bench upon his return to the colours!
Soon enough the match was underway and, after a brief exchange of cloud scraping aerial balls, County managed to get the ball down – Gosset slipping it neatly out to Duxbury, wide left. From the County left back it went on to Dennis who somehow managed to keep the ball in play, under pressure from Declan Benjamin near the by-line. Dennis pinged a dangerous ball into the box where everyone and his dog went after it. Stonehouse thought he had it.....in fact he did have it, but the ball came off him into the net to give County the lead, and within a minute of play starting!
Within a minute of this startling opening, Duxbury revisited the same modus operandi, lofting another dangerous ball into the box where Jevons awaited its arrival. Unfortunately, so did Victor Francoz, City`s keeper, and the ball was his rather impressively! Not long after Francoz was in action again diving to keep a wickedly curling free kick by Platt out.
Platt about to unleash a curler!
The 5th minute saw Oxford fashion a reply, but Charnock did well to ensure that Jamie Cook`s pass did not reach ex Oxford United man Tom Winter at the sharp end. That was a start from the home side and they looked to be improving rapidly, and Tunnicliffe had to look lively to deny Cook a shot on goal on the end of a dangerous free kick from Winter.
The improvement for Oxford continued, but when Mike Pook found himself clear with only Jones to beat, he scooped his shot wide of goal! Let off?............yes I think so, and I felt that with both teams wellying the pill about more than somewhat, the first side to get the ball down and play football, just might prosper! Anyway for now, County were leading weren`t they! So they had a cushion, and could relax a bit could they not? Well the folly of thinking so became apparent and in double quick time next. I am sure County were not in any degree complacent, but their familiar inability to clear their lines when defending set pieces, came to the fore with a vengeance, on 14 minutes, when the second of two corners ended up with the ball at the feet of Winter, who leathered a fierce cross shot home!
OK......this was disappointing, but County looked to be about to address the issues shortly after, but Dennis was unlucky to see a decent volley deflected for a corner off Adam Learoyd. Francoz then struggled to deal with the corner but was relieved, no doubt, to see Duxbury lift his follow up shot over the bar.
It went tit for tat next.....Cook missing by a yard at one end, and Dennis watching agonised to see his header drift wide at the other!
So ......anyone`s game then?................possibly......but the 22nd minute saw County press forward impressively through Howard who brought a foul out of Benjamin in response. Platt stepped up to take this, lifting it menacingly into the box, where the late arriving Tunniciffe met it full on with the mightiest of headers! Wow................what a goal....it was wasn`t it?......except no it wasn`t as somehow Francoz managed to tip the ball up and over the bar at the last gasp! A fantastic save.......a match changer maybe......and this thought lingered as Dennis`s probing ball was just kept from Gosset by Lee Henderson, in front of goal in the immediate aftermath!
Duxbury continued to ping a diet of decent crosses over, but Dennis`s luck was still out as yet another header missed out, but I felt that Oxford were getting their game together a bit now and defending a bit better , albeit with a slice or two of good fortune.
Attacks from City were not that frequent , but a determined run from Benjamin on the half hour, probably should have ended better for the home side, but there was no one available to round things off when the full back`s cross came across the box. Another let off......probably, and a challenge of some sort on Benjamin would definitely have been nice!
Still.....I was able to ignore these small blemishes and look to County`s attacking potential for solace, but another disappointment chanced our way as Jevons treated us to a venomous half volley that looked about to lift Francoz`s goal from its stanchions, until said keeper flung himself to his right and pushed it out for a corner! Bugger...........just does not quite fit the bill at this point, as another corner followed and then the mother of all melees in front of the home goal. Despite not looking overly comfy however, Francoz emerged with no further damage incurred and the score still 1-1.
Meanwhile Oxford were slowly warming to their task and Winter was beginning to look a handful down the left where Jacobs defensive nous was being severely tested. The crosses were pinging in from that flank and upon arrival Symons was putting himself about prodigiously, conspicuously trying to discomfort County`s young keeper in particular. He was perhaps fortunate not to get a card, of whatever hue, and this played a part in my view of his involvement in the sending off incident.
County regrouped, with the break approaching, and Dennis put real pressure on Francoz more than once in this period....Gosset and Duxbury too, such that I was fancying us finishing the half as we had started it- with a goal, but Dennis was again unlucky to see his shot climb over the bar after good work from Jevons had set him up .A sweet move followed from Jevons and Dennis, only for Howard`s shot to miss out thanks to determined defending by Benjamin.
Soon enough it was half time and County had a chance to regroup properly and perhaps take the game to their opponents on the re-start.
Supporters on site!
There was no immediate sign of this re-grouping as the game again got back underway, indeed Winter came closest to changing the score within a minute, his shot just climbing over the bar. That said a couple of minutes on from this and another half decent move surfaced from the yellow shirted blues as the ball flowed nicely from Platt to Jevons and on to Gosset. Gosset`s shot that followed was a veritable screamer, but Francoz was back to his best and dealt with it well!
That was the 48th minute........the 50th saw County shipping the wet stuff as the wily Symons won his team the cheapest of free kicks in a nicely central position. Winter took this and planted a beaut right on the head of Pook. Goal..............for sure, but I had not reckoned with Jones who threw himself to his right and pushed the ball out to safety.
Danger gone then. .................err..................no way, because a through ball down the right saw Symons on the charge. He had company in the shape of Charnock, and anyway was way out wide and thus no danger, until he thrashed a truly awesome lob /cum shot over Jones into the net. From all aspects that was a fine goal....angle....distance....accuracy......., but it was 1-2 now and County needed to get their game together again fast, but there was precious little time to do this as another through ball undid County as Symons went for it on half way. Charnock did so too, and the pair came together-Charnock falling backwards onto the forward who was already on his way down. Free kick.....yes, I suppose so.......card.....well yellow at a pinch, but red it was and County`s 10 looked to be well and truly filleted when Pook`s free kick was side footed home by Symons from close in! I stared in disbelief at the scene thinking that it was 1-3, but referee or liner had seen something and the `goal’ was ruled out!
Ten men or not County tried to respond and they were distinctly unfortunate to see Francoz keep Platt`s shot out at the second attempt.
On it went with Dickinson on for Gosset and O`Halloran for Duxbury- this last move saw County go 3 at the back- Tunnicliffe in the centre flanked by the Irishman and Jacobs. I had expected Fagbola`s emergence at this point and a back 4 , but this was not seemingly going to happen, and the 3 were found wanting within 5 minutes as Winter and Symons burst past Jacobs to ping a tasty ball across the box. County were caught out and could not clear it up field, thus when it sailed back into the box from the right flank Pook`s header did the rest making it 1-3.
Symons was all over County like a rash now, in the absence of the restraining influence of Charnock and a fourth goal began to look more and more likely the more the game went on. The County corpse did twitch as Francoz had to save quickly from O`Halloran who had linked with Jevons, but the general impression was that it was `game lost` for County , an impression only emphasised with the sight of Dicko tracking back to stifle a run by Stonehouse that took him to the by-line.
Yes..........Oxford now looked set fair.....Winter and Palmer had switched wings and looked comfy and the annoying Symons and Pook looked a powerhouse through County`s middle. Palmer and Stonehouse went close with a run , before substitutes McNiish and Jackson combined to round off the scoring for the afternoon. It started with McNish who waltzed past a couple of yellow shirts like cones at the road side. In a flash Jackson had it and he slipped past Tunnicliffe to slot a good finish beyond Jones into the net!
Four might just have been five next when Symons duped Jacobs, had not Jones come to the rescue with a late save. County were in deep distress with knobs on as Henderson just failed , by a whisker, to apply a finish to Palmer`s cross! It was awful and O’Halloran followed suit saving the blue bacon when Symons again raced by Jacobs.
Jevons kept trying until late, but with little support or reward , and County were relieved to see the liners flag raised with Jackson on the charge.
That was that......game over.....not much more to say really.
County line up:
Jones, Jacobs, Charnock, Tunnicliffe, Duxbury ( O’Halloran 64), Platt, Moses, Gosset( Dickinson 63),Howard, Dennis, Jevons.
Subs not used; Ormson, Fagbola.
Oxford City line up:
Francoz, Benjamin,Stonehouse, Malone, Henderson, Learord, Palmer, Pook, Symons, Cook, Winter.