cundle-oxford

Oxford City 1-1 Fleet

The Fleet earned a useful away point at notoriously tough Oxford City to maintain the unbeaten start to the season while the home side will have been pleased to be the first side to halt the winning run of the league leaders.

Rakish Bingham fired the Fleet ahead in the first-half but Oxford’s strong second-half performance was underpinned by an equaliser straight after the restart.

Fleet’s changes for the evening were kept to two, with Haydn Hollis and Darren McQueen on the bench, to be replaced by Josh Wright and Omari Sterling-James. And as on Saturday, Fleet sought to make a quick start, carving out a chance inside the first two minutes when Dominic Poleon found some room to attack into the middle and he might have taken it on himself but tried to pull it back to Greg Cundle and Oxford were able to shepherd that away.

Oxford’s first spell of danger came courtesy of top scorer Klaidi Lolos who managed to outmanoeuvre Joe Martin down the right to get a shot away before Olly Sanderson sent an effort at Mark Cousins.

Fleet thought they’d gone in front on nine minutes when Cousins long kick out was deftly helped on by Bingham into the path of Poleon who raced into the box to fire past Ben Dudzinski – but the offside flag went up to disappoint the travelling fans, not to mention the man who turned the ball into the net, and he appeared to have good cause for complaint.

A harsh offside decision robbed Poleon of an 11th goal

City sent a free-kick close on 13 minutes, Wright clearing with a firm header but it was his last meaningful action of the game as he went to ground three minutes later and had to be replaced by Hollis, Solly moving forwards into midfield in the reshuffle.

Fleet didn’t seem to be too affected by that as Solly proceeded to play some effortless intricate passes across the pitch, while Cundle linked up well with Poleon as the visitors controlled if not entirely commanded the period of play up to shortly before half-time.

The offside flag ruined another moment for Poleon after good work from Bingham on 23 minutes, Fleet moving the ball quickly in and around the box towards the top scorer but as he slid in towards the line, the assistant referee intervened.

Sterling saw another effort saved before Oxford began their own spell of measured football, passing the ball around defence and midfield, probing for a weakness in the red line. But for all that, Lewis Coyle’s shot well over was all the home side had to show until Fleet got the goal to put them ahead.

That arrived on 35 minutes, Martin linking up with Cundle down the left flank and the latter edged his way towards the byline, passing low for Bingham to open up and direct a shot into the far corner.

Rakish Bingham takes the plaudits for the Fleet opener

Oxford had been inching their way forwards towards the end of the first-half and they needed little invitation to press home that authority, snatching the equaliser little more than a minute into the second period. Coyle robbed possession from a Fleet throw-in and played some quick one-touch football, Alfie Potter moving through the middle before releasing Sanderson to weave into a gap between Luke O’Neill and Solly to shoot past Cousins.

Encouraged by the equaliser, City pressed higher and higher up the pitch, Canice Carroll catching the eye dictating the flight of the ball from defence. Potter sent a shot over the bar on 50 minutes before Coyle was set clear down the left and directed the ball just past the upright.

Much like the Hungerford game on Saturday, the second-half didn’t make for exciting viewing as Oxford huffed and puffed as they gradually took the ascendancy in the middle. Fleet had to wait until 67 minutes to really fashion another good chance, Toby Edser’s cross met by Poleon who saw his shot blocked by Josh Parker, with Cundle’s follow-up from 12 yards flying just wide of the wall of hooped shirts.

That signalled the visitors’ best moments of the second-half and a battling Poleon set Cundle free for a run from the left and the subsequent low shot was pushed wide in the six-yard box by Dudzinski at full stretch. Solly was next up after neat approach play, Edser and Cundle to the fore and the skipper then sent a dipping shot just over the bar.

An impressive Oxford resumed the attack in the final minutes and might have taken the points but for the brilliance of Cousins. That came five minutes from the end, Parker on a run through midfield to release Sanderson in a move similar to the earlier goal. The Oxford player was pushed wide by Cousins but might still have caused trouble with a cross along an empty goalmouth that ran clear to the far side of the pitch.

There was one last chance for the Fleet when McQueen did ever so well to clear on the edge of his box, sending fellow substitute Shaq Coulthirst away on the break but Oxford got their men back quickly.

That was the last meaningful event of the 90 minutes and it was honours even as Fleet now head for a two-week break from league action, with a visit to Hanwell up next in the Emirates FA Cup.

EUFC: Cousins, O’Neill, Martin, Solly, Wright (Hollis 16), N’Guessan (Coulthirst 88), Cundle, Sterling-James (McQueen 77), Edser, Bingham, Poleon. Subs: Jombati, Domi.
OCFC: Dudzinski, Ashby, Coyle, Fleet, Lolos, Sanderson, Parker, Harrison, Potter (Fischer 79), Williams-Bushell, Carroll. Subs: Miccio, Rowan, Way, Humphrey-Ewers
Attendance: 392

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