Oxford City (0) 1 Bath City (1) 1 – Vanarama National League South – Saturday 27 January 2018 – Marsh Lane
It was deja-vu for Jerry Gill’s Bath City as, for the second away game in a row, Ross Stearn’s opener was cancelled out late on. Whereas two weeks ago it was a goal straight after the interval from the loanee winger to give the Romans an advantage, this time his smart finish seconds before half-time gave Bath the edge at the break, before Matt Paterson’s penalty earned a deserved point for the hosts. Gill was forced into two changes with Kevin Amankwaah (hamstring) and Antoine Semenyo (flu) missing, meaning returns for Dan Ball and Nat Jarvis.
The opening exchanges were cagey, with Oxford looking the more threatening without testing Luke Southwood. Dave Pearce’s powerful drive from 18 yards was inadvertently deflected over by team-mate Zac McEachran in a rare highlight of a turgid half hour. Stearn looked the visitors’ most promising outlet to nick an opener. He skewed wide from distance and nearly benefitted from good work by Jack Compton and Tom Smith, before pulling his shot across goal. City had appeals for a penalty turned down when Jack Compton’s free-kick appeared to strike an arm in the Oxford wall, but referee Marc Whaley remained unmoved. With the Romans gradually getting on top, they took the lead in first-half stoppage time. Having already escaped thanks to Joe Oastler’s vital interception on Jarvis, Oxford failed to defend the resulting throw-in. Compton’s looped cross was cushioned by Jarvis to Stearn, whose first-time strike from 10 yards beat Craig King all ends up.
Gill’s men started the second half brightly, with Jarvis harshly penalised for a foul on King when he attempted to force the ball home after Miles Welch-Hayes’ cross was spilled by the home stopper. The Hoops lacked punch in attack despite fielding 18-goal Matt Patterson, with Rob Sinclair a constant nuisance behind him. Christian Oxlade-Chamberlain and Ezra Forde were introduced just past the hour in place of Pearce and Mo Fofana. Oxlade-Chamberlain – younger brother of Liverpool’s Alex – showed the trickery of the England international on the right wing as his resulting cross found Patterson, who lifted his shot over amongst a posse of Bath defenders.
With the next foray forward, Oxford found a leveller. Receiving the ball just inside the penalty area, Sinclair attempted to shimmy his way past Jack Batten before being clipped by the City centre-back. Referee Whaley concluded the offence had taken place just inside the box and Patterson coolly sent Southwood the wrong way with the resulting spot-kick. Welch-Hayes – on loan at Oxford earlier this season – tried to inflict damage on his former team-mates but sent a shot harmlessly wide from distance, with McEachran forcing Southwood into a customary save to his right soon after. Stearn and James Morton failed to test King from distance as the closing stages opened up, but neither side did enough to warrant all three points in the third consecutive 1-1 league draw at Marsh Lane between the clubs. The point keeps 10th-place City unbeaten in 2018 and still with only one defeat in 11 in the league since a 3-1 loss at Hampton & Richmond Borough in October. The 14 points they have lost from winning positions will be a concern as they look to bridge the gap on the top seven and the play-off spots in National League South.
City’s Line-Up: Southwood, Welsh-Hayes, Straker (c), Artus (Richards 89), Batten, Ball, Stearn, Morton, Jarvis, Smith, Compton. Subs not used: Rigg, Buck, Case, Hodges.
Scorers: City – Stearn (44); Oxford – Paterson (pen 75)
City Bookings: none
Officials: M Whaley, S Rothwell, S Littlefair