A magnificent solo goal from Conor McDonagh sealed all three points for Oxford City, after they came from 2-1 down to produce a vital victory. Wealdstone were ahead twice with goals from Jonny Wright & Bradley Hudson-Odoi, but Kynan Isaac, Bradley Bubb and McDonagh ensured The City remain well and truly in play-off contention. Wealdstone on the other hand saw a nine-match unbeaten run come to an end with mid-table more than likely to be their destiny this season.
As I walked into the ground, it was clear to see that the Wealdstone fans had arrived in Oxford en masse, and they were by far the most vocal supporters at Marsh Lane for this clash. Oxford City’s ground is hidden away from the busy roads that surround it, but the visitors were certainly here to make their presence known. As previously mentioned, Wealdstone were in fine form, and arrived on the back of a 3-0 home victory against Hayes & Yeading, so they had every reason to be buoyant both on and off the pitch. Oxford City were looking to make it two wins on the bounce, after they had secured a 2-0 away win versus Margate last Saturday. The home fans have not have much to shout about with just one home win in eight previous attempts, but they still have play-off aspirations firmly within their grasp.
Wealdstone enjoyed the first opportunity of the game with veteran forward, Jefferson Louis, glancing a header wide from a corner just two minutes in, but this was the only chance to speak of in the opening stages. Oxford City produced a couple of wild efforts that were high and most definitely wide in the opening fifteen minutes, in what was otherwise a cagey opening.
Oxford City were struggling with deliveries into a crowded area, with the hosts already seeing one effort go close from Thomas Hamblin, after a long throw was not dealt with by the home defence. The warning signs were there, but lessons were not learnt as Wealdstone took the lead in the 24th minute. Scott Davies delivered a free-kick from the right channel towards Jefferson Louis on the far side of the area, who headed across goal for Jonny Wright to divert the ball home from a yard out. Louis found it all too easy to connect with his header as Oxford City failed to deal with his aerial prowess on this occasion.
The first half was bereft of quality in terms of play on the whole, but Oxford City did look the team most likely to score next. McDonagh & Isaac kept the visitors’ defence on their toes with both players producing efforts of note. Shortly before the half hour mark, McDonagh saw an effort pushed behind by Wealdstone keeper, James Bransgrove, after his defence failed to deal with a ball over the top. From the following corner, Isaac capitalised on a short corner routine to cut inside towards the edge of the box, but his angled shot narrowly whistled over the crossbar. McDonagh also curled an effort over the bar with City knocking on the door as half-time approached.
The hosts showed they were growing in confidence with a sweeping move which almost ended up in Isaac finding the net. He forced Bransgrove into a save at his near post a minute before time added on, as the pressure intensified. Then it was time for Isaac to gain his reward for the previous piece of play, as he struck from 25 yards to level things up at 1-1 before the break. He collected a short corner to then unleash a superb dipping effort which crept underneath the crossbar, evading the despairing dive of Bransgrove. The goal ensured both teams went in even at the break, which was probably a fair reflection of the play.
It took only two minutes for Wealdstone to restore their lead in the second half, much to the relief of their impressive away following. Davies helped set up the opener, and he was pivotal once again, as he lofted a fine ball into the path of Hudson-Odoi to break the offside trap. Hudson-Odoi then showed his strength to hold off his man to slot the ball into the far corner past City keeper, Lawrie Walker.
The second half began at a frenetic pace, and it was hardly any surprise that another goal followed in the 49th minute, with Oxford City levelling for a second time. Bradley Bubb, who was fairly quiet overall, was the goalscorer, converting his 21st goal of the season from close range. City captain, Darren Pond, sent a free-kick into the box from just inside the Wealdstone half, and Bubb was there to find the net as he took advantage of some defensive indecisiveness within the eighteen yard box.
Then just shy of the hour mark, Oxford City completed the turn-around in sensational fashion, thanks to an inspired piece of play from McDonagh. He collected the ball on the halfway line, before he surged forward down the right channel and then cut inside to get away from his marker. With the forward now bearing down on goal, he slotted the ball past Bransgrove into the far corner. It was an immensely powerful run to put his side 3-2 to the good, and his goal stunned the Wealdstone faithful into silence in the process.
Oxford City controlled the game from thereon in, and almost sneaked a fourth goal minutes later. Substitute, Kaylem Patterson, on for an injured McDonagh, showed good anticipation to race onto a back header from Thomas Cadmore ahead of Bransgrove, but he could not aim his shot goalwards. The only other real effort came from Reece Fleet, who saw a 25-yard shot rise over the bar, but the telling contribution came from Matty Whichelow in the final thirty minutes. He produced several key interceptions to prevent Wealdstone moving the ball downfield, as they in turn failed to really produce anything noteworthy in their attempt to grab at least a point from the encounter.
The result means that Oxford City now lie in sixth place, one place and three points off the play-off spots, but they have two games in hand over Gosport Borough above them. Wealdstone finished the day in 15th place, but they must continue their recent good form to ensure they don’t slip towards any danger.
Oxford City: Walker, Bevans, Stonehouse, Fleet, Henderson, King, Whichelow (Lafuente 90), Pond, Bubb, McDonagh (Patterson 66), Isaac
Report by James Hunt