County 1 Oxford City 2 ( Conference North ) 6 April 2015






County reserved probably their most turgid performance of the season, for what was undoubtedly the brightest day of the year, as they sunk to dismal defeat at the hands of Oxford City today at sun drenched Edgeley Park!
The score was 2-1 to Justin Merritt`s hard working side, but it might have been more, had they been as sharp with their finishing as with their approach play! At times only Hurst and the valiant O`Halloran stood between respectability and rout. Lees and Duxbury contributed too, but it was an uphill struggle for the blues almost throughout, as the ability to string two consecutive passes accurately together eluded them for long periods. County, having gone behind to a strike by Adi Yussuf earlier, managed to snatch an equaliser at the very last gasp of the first half, but despite a spirited opening to the second half, which saw chances galore set up but sadly not put away, County finally succumbed to a late effort from Marlon Jackson, and it was difficult to say that the visitors did not deserve the win this secured.

 
Not the largest away following of 2014/15, but its quality wot counts!
Adi Yussuf was the obvious threat ,as eyes ran down the list of names turning out for Oxford, and he was soon in County faces early on posing  more than the odd problem for County`s rearguard. Mamadou Fofana tried his luck early on too, but found Duxbury in position and able to prevent anything too nasty happening.

 
County defend !
 This early glut of attacking play continued from Oxford – Tom Winters firing wide under pressure from Matthew Todd.
That was 5 minutes of almost constant City attacking behind us, and the 6th minute saw Spencer thwarted twice at the other end....first by Jose La Pojade, who ushered a shot from County`s number 10 out off the line.....and then by keeper Salva De La Cruz who launched himself to his left to keep a follow up strike out!

 
........and again !
Twice after this County thought that they had breaks on, only for the upraised liner`s flag to disappoint them, but mostly it was Oxford in the driving seat, and had Yussuf`s first touch been better, he might have made more of a decent ball from Winters with 8 minutes gone. 
  It went on with County defending desperately, as Luke Coulson whipped a vicious ball into the box where Yussuf and Jackson vied for it but failed to apply the required finishing touch.
Oxford piled on the pressure after this....Adrian Santiego and Luke Coulson both out of luck with speculative efforts – Yussuf was more business like shortly after, but no more fortunate as Winters` tempting diagonal ball into the box eluded him by the width of a fag paper! On....on....it went with County under mounting pressure, culminating in a free header from defender Lee Henderson that skimmed the bar ,with me and 2300 others holding their breath!

Yussuf shoots.

I was expecting a response from County, but it was slow in coming, as O`Halloran performed small miracles to keep his side afloat and on level terms. Hurst joined in too and did well to hold Winters` cross under pressure at his near post.
For Oxford.....full back Luke Coulson was proving a potent force down the left ,getting forward with some purpose twice, around the 20 minute mark, the first occasion saw a neat cross find no takers in the box, and Duxbury was on hand to foil his run the second time.
What of County? Well.....Moses did sling a brilliant ball into the box, only to see Spencer kept from it by the narrowest of margins by De La Cruz.
So.....there was a glimmer of hope.....but what of the County play generally? Well ...apart from the back four....it was not that impressive...the midfield , so often our weak spot this term, was so again, spilling possession with regularity, and with such evidently good travellers as Oxford in SK3 ,that was not really the way to go! Thus I held my breath again as Churchman let Santiego off the leash, allowing him to put a lovely pass nicely in the path of Winters, who was by that point flying. It was a decent chance, but the moment did for Winters, and his cross did not test Hurst at all.

 
Winters tries one....

County did win a free kick at one point, but Lofthouse made little of this, and when he did do the biz moments later- it was `bite yer lip ‘ time again as his pass to Ryan saw the County number 11, flagged offside for the umpteenth time!
Oxford looked quids in on the basis of the play so far, and the corners racked up alarmingly for the visitors – Hurst doing extremely well to get up and tip Winters shot around the post, from one of these, and make another diving stop to deny Coulson from another.
Hurst sees this one over the bar !


There was simply no stemming the seemingly never ending tide of attacks by Oxford- Hurst making a reassuringly solid catch to stop Yussuf`s gallop, whilst being grateful to his defence for the cover as Yussuf and Jackson tried in vain to force a Winters` cross home.

County under the cosh again.

County needed discipline in the face of all this lively attacking, but Ryan gave a free kick away , ramping the pressure up a notch or two again, and it was fortunate indeed that Winters` finish was sadly lacking, when put through brilliantly by the lively Jeremy Balmy, or County would have been one down.

 
Coulson v Duxbury- a good contest !
But that was not the end of it......the 35th minute saw O`Halloran save the day with a terrific bit of work to keep La Pojade`s probing ball from Winters in the box. Then Duxbury took a hand blocking Henderson who fancied another free header at the subsequent corner.
On......on it went.....O`Halloran in the van again , stopping Balmy from opening the scoring, after Moses had lost possession.......then doing the biz once again cutting another La Pojade  cross out at the last gasp!
This was awesome work by O`Halloran, but with 6 minutes left of the half, Coulson burst past him down the right before pinging a ball inside that eventually found its way to the predatory Yussuf who coolly slotted it home on the turn.
That was a blow, but not at all a surprise on the run of play.
County did try to respond....Dennis  reaching  Spencer`s pass, but way wide with his shot, and Ryan  inches away with another effort, but I found myself thinking that 1-0 was the way it was , and would be at the break, only to get a pleasant surprise in added time in the shape of a County goal.
It started with a corner....the flames of expectancy being fanned by a gruesome flap by De La Cruz. The ball was soon with Spencer who treated us to a step over or two before slipping the ball across the box, to where Churchman stood with cries of `shoot....shoot’ ringing in his ears from 2300 or so specs. He had not had a great game, so expectations actually were on the low side , but he stepped to the plate nicely, sending a neat finish into the far corner of De La Cruz`s net.
It was 1-1 ....and within seconds it was half time......excellent !           

 
Massive stars Alan Ogley & Freddie Goodwin grace Edgeley Park !

Fagbola was on for Todd when play resumed, and County seemed to have benefited from the break because gaps suddenly started appearing in the visitors defence, but I was far from happy when referee Pete Gibbons looked the other way after Dennis had been manhandled by La Pojade just inside the box, when well placed.
A  couple of minutes later we were out of our seats again with the sight of Jack Ryan running onto a through ball....onside and with only De La Cruz in his way. It was a shoo-in really, but instead of putting the chance away, Jack stood on the ball and fluffed it! Spencer did his best to retrieve the situation, but by this time De La Cruz had recovered his equilibrium, and managed to push the forward`s shot around the post!
This was both disappointing and encouraging, and it continued with the keeper just keeping Dennis from a Churchman ball, whilst O`Halloran was mightily unlucky as he steamed in at speed to send a header inches over from a corner!

 
O`Halloran thunders in, but header flies inches over the top!
This was much better from County....just that finish was missing! The ball flowed from Fagbola...to Spencer and on to Dennis in a neat move. He was then flagged offside, but none the less...I liked it!
After this promising opening however, Oxford gradually played themselves back into the game- Duxbury doing particularly well, during this period to stop the irritatingly lively Balmy. Santiego and Yussuf both had efforts dealt with by Hurst around this time, and  Coulson started to terrorise the blues again down the right, and he deserved better than to see his pass land with Jackson who promptly lifted the ball onto the Bung Bowling Green!
Into the last 15 minutes or so we went with 1-1 possibly not either teams preferred result, but one both might just settle for if pushed, and I was tempted to get all confident again next as Churchman chose the moment to pick out Ryan with a neat ball. This was another reasonable chance for young Jack, but after making it to the by-line, he ran out of ideas and the chance was gone!
Glover came on for Lofthouse with about 12 minutes left, and he immediately upped the ante by whipping a wicked ball into the crowded box. A foul by Yussuf kept the pressure on City, and they seemed about to break when Glover slipped the ball to Dennis who had the goal at his mercy. Unfortunately he shot wide, but it mattered not, as the liner`s flag was up to our left and it would not have counted!

 
Glover lines up free kick.

Into the last 6 or 7 minutes we went with Oxford redoubling their efforts to get something more than one point from the game. Once...twice in rapid succession...Hurst had to make saves.....the second a crucial one as he tipped Winters effort over the bar! 


 
Still Hurst pulls  another one out of the bag !
O`Halloran then ushered a shot off the line, and it was an immense relief to see the liners flag come to County`s rescue for once.
I still felt we just might hold on for a point, but it was not to be.....and almost smack on 90 minutes a  cross came in from the left for Jackson to send a sublimely executed diving header into the net for what was the winner!


 
No way through for Spencer.
Spencer did have a spirited effort go close after this for County, but mostly in the run in to the final whistle it was still Oxford calling all the shots.......Coulson  narrowly wide with one effort, and County thankful that Fagbola was in good order and able to stop  substitute Felipe Barcelos as he bore down on goal on the break.
One more....final shot from Lewis Wilson, that flew over the bar, and that was it....game over....lost.....and it was time to trudge off home.
Not much left now of the season. Another home game next Saturday of course against Gainsborough Trinity, who I seem to recall we owe one to, so I will console myself with the thought that we will do just that!

County line up:

Hurst, Todd ( Fagbola 45), Lees, OHalloran, Duxbury, Moses, Churchman, Lofthouse ( Glover 78),Dennis, Spencer, Ryan .

Subs not used:

Ormson, Hancock, Russell.

Oxford City line up:

De La Cruz, Coulson, La Pojade, Del Alamo, Henderson( Stonehouse 45), Santiego, Jackson, Fofana, Yussuf, Balmy( Wilson 77), Winters( Barcelos 90).

Subs not used:

Scott, Benjamin.

Attendance: 2388     

Ian Brown

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