Truro City secured all three points with a comfortable victory against Oxford City, in a crucial encounter involving two teams vying for a play-off place. Two early goals from Isaac Vassell and Matthew Wright were enough to see off the hosts, despite Marlon Jackson halving the deficit a minute shy of half-time. Oxford City huffed and puffed in the second half without too much of an impact, as Truro produced a defensively sound display to secure the win.
Truro set their stall out right from the off, with Wright forcing home goalkeeper, Lawrie Walker, into a save in the first minute of the tie. With that early sign of intent clear to see, it was no surprise the visitors opened the scoring with only eight minutes on the clock. The hosts looked all over the place as they tried to defend a corner from Ollie Knowles, as they allowed Jamie Richards to head the ball back across goal at the far post. The ball fell at the feet of Vassell, who found the net from within the six-yard box.
There was obviously a deficiency in Oxford City’s game that Truro were keen to exploit, as they scored a second in the 14th minute from another corner. Walker failed to deal with a delivery from Ryan Brett, which allowed Wright the freedom to head home at the near post. At this stage it was all too easy for Truro, as they raced into a two-goal lead by taking advantage of some poor set-piece defending.
Oxford City knew that they would have to find a goal soon, with Truro looking very assured in terms of their own play. A shot from distance by Kynan Isaac, and a wild effort from Jackson was all the home side had to show from a lacklustre first half-hour. Truro were a much more dangerous proposition when they bore down on goal, as Vassell shot wide of the near post and Wright headed over from a cross. Vassell then missed a gilt-edged chance after the lively forward somehow put an effort from close range over the crossbar, following a good knock-down header from a Knowles free-kick.
The final few minutes of the first half produced a dramatic finale, as both sides looked to turn the tie in their favour. Isaac showed glimpses of what he is capable of when he narrowly whistled a shot over the bar from the edge of the box, as Oxford City inched closer to finding a way back into the contest. Truro were still on the hunt for a third though, and they almost gained their reward after a good passage of play set up Ryan Brett at the near post. He found himself rather advanced from his central midfield role to meet a low cross from Vassell, but the ball squirmed behind after he was put under pressure.
With the hosts gradually finding their feet in an attacking sense as the half wore on, they pulled one back a minute before the break. Truro were still in control of the match, but Oxford City produced an excellent move worthy of a goal to set up an intriguing second half. Conor McDonagh won the ball in the centre of the park, before he spread the ball out to Paul Stonehouse on the left wing. Stonehouse advanced with the ball which allowed McDonagh to race forward to find some space within the area. This enabled Stonehouse to play a return ball to McDonagh, and he forced Truro keeper, Martin Rice, to parry the ball away. Unluckily for Rice though, Jackson was there at the far post to sneak the ball in to give his side hope going into the interval.
The hosts started the second half brightly as they persued an equaliser. McDonagh was involved again as he shot just wide of the post from inside the box. That was his last effort of the game however, with the forward going off early in the period seemingly through injury.
Cody Cooke was a constant threat for Truro in the second half, and he produced a couple of opportunities early on. He shot wide first of all, before then forcing Walker to parry another effort wide after he latched onto a flick-on.
Oxford City continued to push for a leveller, but were often thwarted by a stubborn Truro rearguard. Matty Whichelow came on for McDonagh, and was able to pull the strings more for his side in midfield. He played a fine ball over the top for Isaac, but Richards was there to execute a great tackle to force his effort behind for a corner. This was to be a running theme as the Truro players smothered Oxford’s chances on several occasions. As a centre-half pairing, Richards and Arran Pugh were particularly solid at the back and made it difficult for hosts to break through.
Cooke kept pushing on for Truro’s cause, as they looked to kill the game off, by nearly adding to the scoreline twice in the latter stages. He initially worried Walker with a stinging shot from the edge of the area, but the keeper grasped hold of the ball at the second attempt. Then, he looped a header over the bar from a Brett corner. With eight minutes to go, Cooke turned provider when he gained control of a loose pass to set up Vassell, but he could not add a second to his tally, as he was denied at the near post by Walker.
In truth, Oxford City never really looked like scoring despite their best intentions. The result means they remain a place below the final play-off berth, missing a chance to overtake Maidenhead United. Truro stabilised their play-off dreams to end the game in 4th, and look strong contenders to be there for the run in at the end of the season.
Oxford City: Walker, Bevans, Stonehouse, Fleet, King, Santiago, Jackson, Pond (Lafuente 78), Benjamin (Lapoujade 28), McDonagh (Whichelow 53), Isaac
Truro City: Rice, Dawson, Riley-Lowe, Brett, Richards, Pugh, Knowles, Green, Wright (Jay 55), Vassell (Afful 84), Cooke (Adelsbury 89)
Report by James Hunt