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© Chris Byrne 2010



The close-season saw little change to the personnel likely to be involved with the 1st XI, with Neil Hartigan leaving for Witney and Frank Allen arriving from Wallingford. With the Reserves moving down from the Hellenic League to the Oxfordshire Senior League, however, several of the previous season’s Reserves moved on in search of a higher standard of football.
Friendlies against Dunstable Town of the Southern League Premier, a 0-1 loss, and a goalless draw with Reading’s Reserve XI were rather inconclusive, but the first six league matches highlighted what would prove to be City’s major failing throughout the season: an inability to score goals. Those first six games produced a win and two draws, but only two goals in the ‘for’ column. The 5-0 loss at Hendon with their seventeen contracted professionals (City had six) also prompted the headline “How can City compete with the London moneymen” reflecting the big London clubs’ ability to attract high-quality players, who would be very unlikely to opt for the extra travelling to Oxford for less money. In the new world of professional non-league football the club quickly realised its historic name would count for very little and that it would have to rely on locally grown players. Fund-raising also took on a new urgency, and while some ideas worked well, the open-air amateur boxing in September at the White House attracted around 500 with Henry Cooper presenting the awards, but the Oxford City Newspaper launched at the start of the season ceased after four issues as it was losing money.
The Reserves venture into the OSL got off to a flying start with a 5-0 defeat of Bletchingdon in their first home match and they continued unbeaten until the start of November by which time they were top of the league.
The White House saw an influx of league scouts for the 0-0 draw against newly-promoted Southall in September, but it was the visitors’ young Alan Devonshire who was the attraction, and it was after this match Maurice Kyle admitted it was likely to be a struggle to avoid relegation.

The FA Cup came as a welcome distraction from the problems of the league and a First Qualifying Round home draw against Wolverton Town & BR was a comfortable opener, although it took two goals in the final three minutes from Gilligan and Dallaway to settle the tie. A Martin Gilligan goal late in the game was needed to see the club through the next stage as well, at United Counties League Rothwell Town. A scoreless draw against Cheltenham Town meant a mid-week replay at Whaddon Road in the Third Qualifying Round and City went down 2-0 in a bruising encounter that saw John Woodley pick up only the second booking of his career.
The poor league form continued. The start of November saw a 1-0 defeat at Clapton, the host’s first points of the season, and a rare away win, 2-0 at Southall late in the month, was only the second time the team had scored more than one goal in a match. On the brighter side the match against Banbury in the Professional Cup on the 21st of the month was Eric Metcalfe’s 500th for the team: he scored in the 2-1 defeat.
A 1-0 win at Chesham saw the club break its FA Trophy duck, but in the next round Wealdstone scored three before half-time and then coasted to a 4-0 win.
The Rothmans Inter-League Knockout Cup brought some success. Firstly Hellenic League locals Chipping Norton Town were beaten 3-1 and then, in an all together tougher match, Western League Bridgwater Town were defeated 2-1. Though the two clubs had never met before, Maurice Kyle in his playing days for Southern League Oxford United had scored the late goal that defeated Bridgwater in the Second Round Proper of the FA Cup in 1960 to set up a money-spinning tie with Leicester City.
December was a more encouraging month in terms of results with three successive league victories, 2-0 at Leytonstone, and 1-0 and 2-1 against Sutton and Dulwich Hamlet respectively at the White House (though there would in fact be only two more league victories in the next four months) but against those wins it was announced that Maurice Kyle would be leaving at the end of the season unless there was a significant improvement.
The Reserves continued to do well in the Senior League and topped the table at the turn of the year, although in their first match of 1976 they were dismissed from the Senior Cup at Clanfield, 3-1.
The first home fixture of the New Year saw Clapton complete the double over the City who put up a performance described as “...shocking” by Maurice Kyle. Clapton only collected twelve points all season: half of these coming from their two matches with City!
The slide down the table continued and with Clapton already doomed the tussle was between Leytonstone, Southall and City for the other relegation spot and it looked blacker for City by the week as the goal drought continued. At the end of January John Woodley was top-scorer for the XI with six goals, but he was a defender now, and all his goals were from penalties.
St Valentine’s Day brought some cheer as three goals were scored in a match for the first time during the season as Barking were beaten by two clear goals. The following week City made the long trek north in the next round of the Rothmans Interleague Cup to play Northern League West Auckland. Two goals from John Woodley inside the first twelve minutes looked to have put them on the way to a home tie with Durham City in the next round, but the hosts pulled the game round and won 3-2 thanks to what the manager described as "...some of the worst defending he had ever seen from a City side."
One more league match was won, a battling 2-0 defeat of Slough, but the loss at fellow-strugglers Leytonstone left City needing other clubs to drop points, and the home defeat by Enfield on the last day of April was the final nail in the coffin: City were relegated for the first time in their existence. There was not even any of the sponsorship money to soften the blow as City had used up their eight ‘sportsmanship’ points and had not won any match by three goals.
The Reserves ran out 6-0 winners over Garsington in their final match of the season which left them still on top of the league, but Headington Amateurs and Banbury United Reserves with several games in hand eventually overtook them. It had been an encouraging season, though, and several players who would eventually move on to the senior team had gained valuable experience.
This most disappointing of seasons ended on a positive note when Oxford United brought a strong team to the White House on May 3rd to play a testimonial match against a City Past & Present team to mark Eric Metcalfe’s retirement. Eric came very close to scoring in his 528th game on a couple of occasions, but United, who had also just suffered relegation, eventually ran out 4-0 victors.

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