Match Report by Nick DuGard: Saturday, 19 March 2016: National League South:
Oxford City 3 Wealdstone 2
A disappointingly below par second half performance from Wealdstone at an atmospherically moribund Oxford City Stadium on Saturday brought a rare defeat – their first reverse in ten league matches.
Despite taking the lead twice, including a great start immediately after the turnaround and with 120 Stones fans in full voice lifting the quietude they sadly lost their way in a torrid second half.
The contest was played out on a hard, very bumpy surface which made close control and quality play a constant challenge. No wonder then that the home side reverted to hoof ball, direct tactics for much of the game but certainly not the style of football that comes naturally to Stones.
Pitch conditions aside, City are nevertheless an impressive side with some top quality players and have been in contention for a play-off place for most of the current campaign. Stones were always going to be under pressure against a strongUnited attack but the second half collapse wasn’t in the script
After an even and lively start, Jefferson Louis missed a headed chance from a corner. It was apparent that the home side would counter attack quickly and former Watford midfielder Matt Whichelow blasted over from a decent position after 8 minutes.
A trade mark long throw from Scott Davies caused problems for the home defence but Johnny Wright screwed his shot well wide.
City hit back with pace and menace but Josh Urquhart came to the rescue intercepting a loose ball with James Bransgrove in no man’s land and clearing to safety. Jack Smith came into the midfield making a welcome return from injury to replace Matt Harriott as Stones drove on and gradually mastered the frankly horrible playing surface.
Stones battling paid off on 25 minutes. Davies swung a perfectly flighted free kick on the right and big Jefferson Louis used his height to connect powerfully but Johnny Wright stole in and added the final touch for the opening goal.
City again moved the ball quickly and Connor McDonagh’s strike from close range was scrambled away by Bransgrove for a corner that came to nought with good defending.
But following more home pressure and a decent Bransgrove save, City equalised.
Stones lost their concentration and loose marking allowed Kynan Isaac from outside the area to send a dipping strike over Bransgrove who will perhaps be disappointed that it wasn’t tipped over.
Wealdstone had the best possible start to the second half. A strong move up field, despite Louis looking like he was in an offside position, brought Bradley Hudson-Odoi into a great area and he confidently stroked the ball home to re-take the lead.
Somewhat inexplicably that was the high point for the away side as matters dropped off alarmingly soon after this excellent advantage was taken.
Two minutes later and it was 2-2. The midfield for Stones looked open and another quick attack by the home side allowed the dangerous Bradley Bubb to hook the ball past the keeper.
Stones were now under consistent pressure as their shape and attacking capability faltered. Oxford inevitably took the lead when the ever lively Connor McDonagh ran through the Stones back line outpacing Tom Cadmore and rifled past Bransgrove.
Wealdstone brought on all their available subs including Nathan Mavila and James Demetriou but credit has to be given to the City defence who effectively closed down the away side at every opportunity in the remaining time.
Wealdstone still have much to in their remaining games with more player movement likely as Manager Gordon Bartlett is tasked with balancing the books as much as the shape of his team on the park.
Wealdstone: Bransgrove, McCleod-Urquhart, Binns, Cadmore, Hamblin, Godfrey, Wright, Harriott, Louis, Davies, Hudson-Odoi. Subs used: Smith, Demetriou, Mavila. Not used: Morgan, Lucien.