An away draw at one of your closest league rivals was perhaps not top of the bill of desired ties when the FA Trophy draw was made but if Fleet repeat the feats of last season – when three clubs from the division above were despatched in quick succession – then the draw doesn’t seem so unkind.
Oxford City showed their mettle in the league fixture at Stonebridge Road last month, taking the lead before Fleet had the best of the second-half in a game that ended 1-1. Whether City will be quite so laid back at home as was witnessed in their patient build-up from the back and willingness to play the ball around defence is open to question, but Fleet know they’ll be in for a tough test.
With the squad still on cloud nine after the amazing turnaround at Hemel Hempstead last week, together with league points dropped by many of their rivals in recent weeks, they’ll be keen to pit themselves against the sort of quality that Oxford City should offer.
Cheered on by four coachloads of fans in addition to the usual away contingent, Fleet can expect to boost Oxford’s average attendance of just under 300. And with the prospect of the returning Anthony Cook (though he missed Bromley’s last fixture through injury), there is added interest for the travelling fans.
Cup tie or not, Daryl McMahon is unlikely to tinker too much with his side in a competition he won himself as a player in 2007. And with form on his team’s side (they have won every game since last facing Oxford), too many line-up changes would be inadvisable.
By contrast, City’s form has tailed off a little since their trip to Stonebridge Road, seeing them fall to third in the table, 10 points behind the Fleet – a total that could rise to 13 if Fleet win the game in hand.
They have won only one of their last four league games at home, and exchanged nine goals in a 6-3 win over Marlow in the last round of the Trophy. City have, however, welcomed back top scorer Bradley Bubb who was injured for the Stonebridge Road clash, while loanee Mo Fafana has departed back to parent club Barrow. Full-back Paul Stonehouse is doubtful but loan striker Omari Sterling-James has been given the all-clear by Cheltenham to play.