FOOTBALL: City edge closer to safety despite loss

Bicester Advertiser: Andy Ballard squeezes the ball in from a narrow angle to equalise for Oxford City Andy Ballard squeezes the ball in from a narrow angle to equalise for Oxford City

OXFORD City missed the chance to secure safety in Skrill North when they lost 2-1 to ten-man Hednesford at Marsh Lane on Saturday, writes MATTHEW BRUCE.

However, their hopes of avoiding the drop were enhanced when fellow strugglers Histon lost 3-0 at home to Solihull Moors.

Because of their inferior goal difference, Histon will need to win their last two games if they are to finish above City, who will ensure they stay up anyway with one win from their final two matches.

Andy Ballard cancelled out Dave Macpherson’s opener for Hednesford and, when Wayne Riley was dismissed after the break, City appeared to be in charge.

But Marvin Johnson struck late in the game to send City slipping to defeat.

The hosts started brightly and immediately put the visitors under considerable pressure, forcing a host of corners in the opening ten minutes.

But their failure to make that pressure count came back to haunt them as Hednesford took the lead with their first meaningful attack.

The City defence failed to clear a corner and Macpherson was on hand to poke in after the ball was nodded into his path.

But despite the setback the City onslaught continued and the visitors were indebted to goalkeeper Dan Crane as the chances began to mount.

But Crane’s goal appeared to have been breached on the stroke of half-time. Kayden Jackson fired in after being played through by Tom Winters, but City’s joy was cut short by an offside flag.

The decision appeared harsh, but it did not prevent the hosts from drawing level before the break.

This was thanks to an individual effort from Ballard, who converted from a tight angle after his attempted cross was blocked back into his path.

Jackson was a continual threat to the visitors after the break, rattling the crossbar with one ambitious effort from 25 yards.

And City’s chances were given a boost when Hednesford midfielder Riley was given his marching orders with more than half-an hour to play following foul and abusive language towards the referee.

But it was the visitors who took the lead once more when Johnson broke down the right before cutting inside and curling an effort into the far corner.

Boss Mike Ford brought on Mike Symons, Viv Solomon-Otabor and Jamie Cook in the latter stages of the game as City went searching for an equaliser.

But the visitors were in no mood to allow them back in and City were unable to create any real chances.

Oxford City: Bulman, Henderson (Symons 74), Stonehouse, Pook (Solomon-Otabor 74), Learoyd, Preece, Benjamin (Cook 84), Ballard, Jackson, Pond, Winters. Subs not used: Willmott, Basham.

Attendance: 335

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