Free-kick double sees City open league campaign with Oxford defeat

A free-kick in each half condemned City to defeat in their opening Vananrama National League South game at Oxford City this evening. After a first half lacking in quality from both sides, City improved after the break and came close to levelling on several occasions before Oxford secured the three points in stoppage time. It wasn’t until the 20th minute that either keeper was called into action, Oxford’s Dudzinski comfortably keeping out Tommy Conway’s low shot. Ryan Clarke had dealt well with a number of testing crosses from the hosts but on 38 minutes he was powerless to stop Ashby’s arrow like 18-yard free-kick, after Jack Batten was harshly adjudged to have committed a foul right on the edge of the box. An early goalmouth scramble in the Oxford box heralded the game opening up slightly and on 55 minutes City produced the move of the match which saw Tom Smith fire home from Callum Evans cross only for the linesman’s flag to save the home side. Ten minutes later a great turn by Tom Richards saw him fire narrowly over the bar. Oxford were now looking to slow the game down at every opportunity, through time-wasting and numerous fouls that a stronger referee would have taken more decisive action against, and this tactic proved effective as City lost the momentum they had generated. As they threw more men forward Oxford nearly caught them on the break several times, Drewe firing over on 71 minutes then Benyon twice forcing City into last-gasp goalline clearances. Inbetween these escapes Conway forced Dudzinski into a fingertip save but this was the closest the Romans would come to an equaliser despite several late corners. Then in the fifth minute of stoppage Ashby repeated his first half trick, this time curling the ball home from 20 yards, to cap a disappointing evening for Jerry Gill’s side.