Oxford City won the battle of the South’s promoted sides with two quick first-half goals and two even quicker in the second period, as Fleet suffered with 10 men for an hour following Billy Clifford’s pair of cautions.
With Oxford four goals in front by the time the 55th minute was up, the second-half was a non-event with the visitors eating up possession and on auto-pilot through to the final whistle.
Fleet named just the one change to the side that drew at Hartlepool, with Chris Solly coming into the starting lineup and Luke O’Neill switching to the bench. The visitors had drafted in two new faces pre-match with ex-Chelmsford and Hemel defender Cole Kpekawa brought in on loan from Bromley alongside former Dagenham midfielder Alex McQueen who was at Tottenham with his namesake, Fleet’s Darren.
The first chance fell to Oxford on four minutes when Oli Sanderson almost took advantage of Solly’s slip to get a shot on goal that was sent out for a corner. But straight from that, Latrell Humphrey-Ewers floated the ball across and new boy Kpekawa glided in ahead of the Fleet defence to nod it through a line of bodies and past Mark Cousins.
Fleet tried to respond as Greg Cundle and Craig Tanner combined, the latter’s disguised cross running free before Billy Clifford tried the same tack but Dominic Poleon couldn’t get a clear sight of goal.
Oxford doubled their lead on 13 minutes with a shot out of the blue, Zac McEachran lurking in midfield 20 yards out and he spotted an opportunity to fire the ball towards the top corner. Cousins seemed to have done enough to keep it out but the ball spun past him and dropped over the line to the surprise of pretty much everyone watching.
Matthias Fanimo’s 17th minute strike tested Jack Bycroft who had to get down low to his right to push it away and Fanimo had another one whistle just wide moments after that.
It was Fanimo’s cross five minutes later that almost set Clifford up for a close-range header but he couldn’t quite get the height above the ball and sent it over the bar as Fleet began to exert a little more pressure.
That was Clifford’s last contribution as Fleet went down to 10 men. Having earned an earlier yellow card, on 29 minutes the midfielder stuck a hand out as Oxford cleared from the back and the referee was left with little option but to issue another caution and send him off.
Cousins did well to get down to Sanderson’s low effort from a McQueen delivery as Oxford looked odds-on to score a third. And an equally great opportunity was wasted at the other end on 36 minutes, Cundle into the box and his pass onto Mustapha Olagunju’s feet stabbed wide from eight yards.
Cundle was proving to be Fleet’s most likely creator and he took down a Fanimo pass across the pitch to expertly get beyond Tafari Moore but Dominic Samuel was crowded out at the near post. The Hoops were disciplined in getting bodies back behind the ball as soon as Fleet’s possession carried them forwards and that tactic saw them through to half-time with their clean sheet intact.
Fleet brought on Darren McQueen but it was Oxford’s McQueen who proved wasteful with the first chance of the second period, his wayward shot well off target from McEachran’s pass.
It was 3-0 on 49 minutes, however, when Cousins fought off Renny Smith’s shot from another McEachran venture forwards. The visitors managed to recycle it and Sanderson was poised to slide the loose ball into the bottom corner.
It was 4-0 three minutes later, a long ball forward scooped up by McQueen whose movement produced a first-time shot past Cousins.
A man up and four goals to the good, the visitors had the space and time to pass across midfield and simply keep the ball to themselves for long periods. That finished the game as a spectacle and any action in either box was at a minimum.
With 15 minutes left, Cundle produced a mazy run, twisting inside the box to play Samuel in but he sent his effort into the Plough End. Cousins kept out Lewis Coyle’s shot in Oxford’s only other real chance of note and the four minutes of added time were but a formality until the visitors could claim their first victory at Stonebridge Road.
EUFC: Cousins, Solly, Kenlock, Olagunju, Wright (O’Neill 56), Clifford, Cundle, Fanimo (McQueen 46), Tanner (Edser 51), Samuel, Poleon. Subs: Domi, Odokonyero
OCFC: Bycroft, Moore, Kpekawa, Carroll, Roberts, Coyle, McQueen (Williams-Bushell 64), Smith, McEachran (Kirby 72), Humphrey-Ewers, Sanderson (Fleet 72). Subs: Miccio, Ofosu
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