County 2 Oxford City 0 ; Conference North





After a truly memorable morning and early afternoon ( report of Sea of Blue March to follow late Sunday/ early Monday with piles of pics),I half anticipated a depressing let down at EP , which was totally deserted as I gained entrance circa 2.30( ridiculously short vid of emptiness available on request).
Instead County worked hard and snatched 3 points from Oxford, a team that had shaded the first half, despite going one down within a minute, in what now must be considered traditional fashion for them against us, and tried a bit in the second, but they failed monumentally to capitalise on numerous gifts of possession from County and thus paid the price, thanks to two special goals from M.O.M Iain Howard. The game was nothing to write home about, to be sure, but 3 points and a clean sheet are not to be sniffed at in our current situation- so I say well done team...keep it up!
Teams come out!

Back to 3o`clock then, and ......notwithstanding my earlier comments about low expectations I was glibly forecasting 5 or 6 goals from County to anyone who would listen. A hint of my precarious mental state perhaps – a poor soul wishing and hoping against all available logic!
Anyway...I wanted 5 or 6, and it was `strike one’ in no time as with Oxford`s defence melting away before him, Rhys Turner slipped a peach of a pass out to Iain Howard. Now this looked good, even though the keeper, Victor Francoz, was advancing towards the ex Chester man. I have seen `em missed, but not this one...as the keeper came out, so Howard gently lifted the ball over his head into the net! One minute gone,....County 1 Oxford 0.......excellent! I might have perhaps cautioned myself with thoughts of County 1 up in 60 seconds at their place a while back, but I allowed a small pre Xmas wave of euphoria take over instead and had a wallow!
The next few minutes were deeply unimpressive and, Dickinson might have been a tad disappointed when his neat flick on from Moses` pass found no takers in the box.
This served as a signal for some time spent concentrating on defending for the blues, as Oxford came at them, and County were not all that accurate with their passes thus helping rather than hindering their opponents.
Fagbola and Jacobs both had to make hurried clearances, and the 7th minute saw County almost sleep walk into trouble as Kayden Jackson was allowed through down the left. It was not what I wanted to see, especially as the forward whipped in a fairly tasty shot, but Ormson`s dive saw him clutch the ball and keep him out.
That was not terrifically good ,defensively speaking, but more angst quickly followed , again down the left, as no less than 3 County defenders seemed intent on  getting in each other`s way rather than attending to Tom Winters, it was awesomely bad, as again the forward got a shot off , being denied by another good stop from Ormson!
Hmm..........not great, and County did nothing to help themselves- instead conceding a couple of free kicks that pushed them back once again, and it was once more left to Ormson to do the biz and stop Winters from getting that equaliser ,with another decent save!
This was good from Ormson, but what was happening in front of him? Well.....the answer to that one would have to wait as Oxford were surging forward again and after Winters had ended his run by laying the ball back to Chris Palmer, and Palmer had fired a neat shot in, Ormson again had to earn his corn via another diving save.
Monotonous?.....................probably, but a touch alarming too ,so unless City were unbelievably bad at finishing, we would need more than a one goal lead today!       
County then conceded a free kick and a corner , which Ormson claimed confidently, and  the first 20 minutes had passed with County largely on the back foot, albeit one up!
We all know that goals win games and one minute on, and County seemed on to double their tally when Dickinson sent Turner darting clear on the edge of the box. Drifting towards the by-line, Turner stopped sharply before turning to hit the ball towards goal- it promptly hit a defender on the hand- a clear penalty, but the referee`s lamentably fulsome mime told us quickly that he had not awarded one! That was a poor decision, and of course Moses follow up shot went wide to make matters even worse.
A save by Francoz  from Dickinson came next , but Oxford may have been encouraged a bit by the escape they had just had, because they pushed County back again and Jacobs did really well to stop Jackson as he ran clear down the left. However..... County`s propensity to give the ball away featured now pushing them back once more, and they must have been relieved to see a firm header from Chris Wilmott  miss by a foot or so, after he ghosted in unheeded at a corner.
To County`s credit, they did fight back a bit, but a series of free kicks and corners came and went without making so much as a visibly small  dint in the visitors confidence.
                                                                County press......

Meanwhile County`s confidence did not look about to bubble over- diffidence seemed the order of the day at times and it surfaced again, with just 6 minutes to the break when ( fearing offside probably) no one went for a decent final ball from Jacobs....then again a minute later there were no takers when Howard fired the ball over from the left.
We needed to get sharper and put some daylight between us and them- a fact that became more apparent when Jevons handled and the free kick saw Darren Pond scoot clear. It was a definite chance and should have been put away- instead Pond screwed his shot wide, to gales of raucous laughter from all but 12 of the crowd.
                                           Away support,  Announced as 11....I counted 12....
                                                       .....how about you?

At the very minimum now, we needed County to go in with the score still 1-0, but the referee awarded Oxford a ludicrously generous free kick. It could have been the return of all our nightmares of yesterday and days before, but thank fully the kick was wasted by Oxford, and County did hold out until half time with the score still 1-0.    
No personnel changes, for either team, on the re-start, which opened with Oxford attacking and Ormson and Cowens in a fearful tangle faced with Jackson. The hapless duo totally funked it, and Jackson as a result now had the clearest of open goals yawning in front of him! It was 1-1 for sure, except somehow Jackson contrived to stab his shot well wide of the goal! Wow....perhaps after all Oxford really were ` unbelievably bad finishers’.
I really did not want to see the contention tested, but it looked like being, and within a couple of minutes, as Fagbola sent the laziest of back passes into no man`s land between him and Ormson. To make matters worse Jackson was on hand and he quickly went for the kill, but thankfully Ormson reached the ball first lumping it unceremoniously high into the Pop Side.
I was still cursing that last offering when things threatened to brighten up a touch via Turner who darted clear before picking out the unmarked Howard wide left. It looked like Iain`s birthday, but it wasn`t as the liner had his flag up and that was that!
That was encouraging, but still the blues would spoil it by giving the ball away, and Jacobs did extremely well to deny Mike Symons after he had latched onto just such a loose delivery.
Oxford continued to press, but paradoxically it was County who came closest to scoring when Jacobs` effort forced Francoz into action tipping the ball over the bar at the last gasp. Cowen`s header, from the corner, cleared the bar so it stayed 1-0.
Both teams probed the other next......County via Turner urged on by Lofthouse, and Oxford through Winters, who tested Ormson with a nasty bouncing shot from outside the box.............Dickinson went close with a header, whilst Fagbola hacked the ball clear after Jacobs had slipped, letting Jackson in.
                                                       Oxford on the attack.

We were past the hour now and Oxford, for me anyway, were still better on the ball and first to most 50/50`s, but to counter this Moke was on now ( for Dickinson) so perhaps County`s forward movements would improve.
We then had one of those moments we have not had for a while at EP....you know the one`s I mean- those that make you simultaneously doubt both your own sanity and the official(s) parentage! The ball was in front of the main stand when it swerved out off Winters, so much so that I saw a man on Row Z duck as it came by, but no throw was awarded , only a free kick moments later.....a phantom free kick as far as I could see for no foul had been committed. County dealt with the kick well, but I was not to be placated!
                                                   The County offside trap in action.

We then saw Chris Churchman replace Lofthouse, with 20 minutes left, and I must say, cameo or not, I was quietly impressed with Churchman, he showed plenty of enthusiasm and some ability!
Oxford meanwhile had brought Callum McNish on and he had sent a warning shot just a foot wide of goal when County had lightly gifted possession away again. They also swapped Marvin Robinson for the burly Symons, and were clearly going to go for broke late on.
Both sides took turns next to chance their arms, and Howard was unlucky to see Francoz keep his shot out – at the other end Winters` fared no better ,but his lack of success was down to Duxbury and Churchman who combined neatly to deny him.
With Oxford`s last substitute (Jamie Cook) on for Malone their forward push continued apace and Cowen was duped by Cook who then sent Jackson clear. It was another borderline gilt edger, but the forward let the ball run out of play to the great amusement of the Cheadle End. We were less amused moments later when Robinson dashed clear unhindered, but the saintly linesman had his flag up for offside, and we brightened up!
That said County were living rather dangerously –emphasised on 81 minutes when Churchman won possession and Moses promptly lost it. To rub salt in a bit....Winters was in the clear yet again, but once more schoolboy stuff came from the Oxford forwards as the number eleven scuffed his shot –totally failing to test Ormson.
On it went  much in the same vein- interrupted , with 5 minutes left, by Moke who`s pass picked Jevons out perfectly. He was well placed......seemed to have time, but side footed his shot wide!
That was gruesome stuff, but within a minute Jevons had bounced back and slotted a neat pass out to Howard on the left. He was a fair way out and he had no right to expect to score, but that`s just what he did as a fierce drive gave the keeper no chance whatsoever. It was 2-0 and surely game over?!
Even so..... County might have notched another thanks to Churchman who picked out Jevons with a pin point long pass. Jevons was blocked by a line of defenders however and the moment passed.
Jevons then turned provider again and was unlucky to see Francoz prevent Howard getting to his long ball.
Both sides kept at it, but there was no further scoring and County had secured a valuable win and 3 much needed points. The clean sheet must have pleased AL and his new assistants, but there is clearly stuff still to be done, and if matters can improve off the park perhaps improvement on it will follow.

County line up;

Ormosn, Jacobs, Fagbola, Cowen, Duxbury, Moses,Lofthouse( Churchman 70),Howard, Jevons, Turner, Dickinson ( Moke 64 ).

Subs not used ;  Charnock, O`Halloran, Craney.

Oxford City line up;

Francoz, Palmer, Stonehouse, Pook, Learoyd, Malone, Symons, Pond, Winters.

Attendance: 1884        

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