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© Chris Byrne 2010


There were no substantial changes to the squad from the previous season, although the arrival on a season’s loan of the impressively tall Jason Mooney in goal promised to be (and proved to be) an exciting acquisition, and the signing of proven goalscorer Steve Basham was certainly a very popular move. The pre-season friendlies, with wins against Conference South sides Eastleigh and Farnborough and a draw with a Northampton Town XI, were generally seen as very successful, but a catastrophic 6-0 defeat at newly promoted AFC Totton in the second league fixture, after a home draw with Redditch in the first, had supporters wondering nervously if a re-run of the early-season form of the previous campaign might be on the cards. Thankfully nerves were then steadied by six wins in the next seven league outings which elevated the side to second place.
With the side gelling well and playing some attractive football hopes were high for a good cup run when Didcot Town, relegated at the end of the previous season, visited Court Place Farm in mid-September, but, as has so often been the case, local derbies can be unpredictable affairs and City surrendered an early lead to be taken to a replay the following Tuesday that ultimately produced a comfortable victory.

Steele Scores vRedbridge

Lee Steele nets against Redbridge in the FA Cup Round 1

Another local banana-skin awaited in the next round when a visit to Hellenic League Thame United saw City have the majority of the play but trail at half-time before exerting their authority after the break and netting three times.
Meanwhile league results continued to be positive and a 7-1 demolition of Swindon Supermarine was the first time in almost twenty years that the side had netted more than six goals in a league fixture.
Now into the Third Round Qualifying, City faced a daunting visit to Conference South Eastleigh, where, playing some fluent football, they repeated their pre-season victory over the Hampshire club with Darren Pond scoring twice and Steve Basham getting the third in a 3-1 win. However it was back down to earth again with a bump the following week when, for the second season in succession, Mangotsfield United inflicted a disappointing knock-out competition dismissal on City at Court Place Farm, this time 3-0 in the FA Trophy.
A league loss at Weymouth the following week meant that the side might have been edgy ahead of their Fourth Round Qualifying tie at Weston-super-Mare, but they rose to the occasion superbly, took a 2-0 half-time lead, and, when a west-country fightback threatened to force a replay, defended stubbornly to claim the 3-2 victory that took them through to the First Round Proper for the second time in three years.
There was some disappointment as City were rewarded for their heroics at two Conference South sides with another away-day, this time to east London to face Isthmian Leaguers Redbridge. The lowest ranked side left in the cup had put in several strong performances to reach this stage and were clearly going to be tricky opposition. City had the better chances to settle the tie, and Declan Benjamin was particularly unlucky with a tremendous shot from distance that cannoned off the post, but in the end had to be thankful to an assistant’s flag in the dying moments of the game that ruled out a Redbridge goal from a corner.
The replay, on a damp and foggy Oxford night, brought in a good gate and the game was held up for fifteen minutes to ensure everyone was in place. Lee Steele put City ahead after twenty minutes and the team came close to doubling their lead on two or three occasions before the break. The London side, however, had the better of the second half as City seemed to take their foot off the pedal and duly equalised on seventy minutes when Gordan reacted the quickest after stand-in goalie Keith McLoughlin had saved superbly from Bradbury’s penalty kick. Both sides had half-chances before the ninety minutes were up, but it was the visitors who looked the stronger in extra-time and they finally scored the decisive goal just before the break to set up a Second Round visit to League newcomers Crawley Town.
The cup heroics looked to have taken a toll over the next few weeks as only one league victory was recorded in eight games and the team slipped out of the play-off positions.
With the 1st XI grabbing the headlines Oxford City Nomads had, under the leadership of Justin Merritt and Justin Lee, been playing attractive and attacking football and establishing themselves among the top sides in the Hellenic Premier, though they had, again, slipped out of the FA Vase at the first hurdle, losing to the resurrected Windsor side at Stag Meadow.
The New Year saw the 1st XI recover their poise and put together a consistent run of results that pulled them back up into the play-off places where they would remain for the rest of the season.
There was a reversal of fortunes in the Senior Cup where City lost by the only goal at Banbury only for their neighbours to be removed from the competition because of an incorrectly-signed player – just as City had been twelve months earlier.
Home and away league defeats by fellow play-off hopefuls Stourbridge caused concern but other results were sound as the season’s end approached, and with very few points covering several clubs the last games were going to prove pivotal, and City, having been unfortunate with postponements, faced a particularly tough run-in with five league matches and the Senior Cup Final in the last fortnight.
Mike Ford took the pragmatic view that the league matches were the more important and a very young side put up some strong resistance in the County final at the Kassam Stadium before finally going down 5-0 to North Leigh’s Southern League side. Brackley Town confirmed their place as champions with a 1-1 draw at Court Place Farm whilst City showed great resilience and stamina in winning their last two away matches, at Frome and Hitchin, to claim second place along with home advantage in the play-offs.
The semi-final against Cambridge – a team City had previously not managed to defeat – was a close affair finally settled by a goal from Chris Wilmott in the aftermath of a corner.
The final was a much livelier affair and a crowd of almost 1300 saw City take the lead through Felipe Barcelos in the first half; Totton equalise after the break, and the home side rattle in three quick goals to settle the match before Totton grabbed a consolation in the final minutes. A splendid reply to that 6-0 battering at the start of the campaign.
And while all this was happening Nomads had kept long-time league leaders Ardley United in their sights and gradually whittled away their lead at the top of the Hellenic. That Ardley’s challenge had faltered was emphasised in no uncertain manner when the two sides played their top-of-the-table clash at Court Place Farm at the end of March, and Nomads completely outclassed their opponents on the way to a 7-1 win. A hard-fought 2-0 win at Binfield a few days later put the championship firmly in their sights, although Shortwood United, with several games in hand after their tremendous run in the FA Vase, were still capable of overtaking them.
Eventually a draw against Slimbridge and a battling victory over Abingdon Town in their final home fixture saw Nomads through to a total that left Shortwood needing to win all their remaining games. Six matches in sixteen days finally proved too much for the Gloucestershire side and, though four of those games were won, draws against Wantage and Flackwell Heath meant Nomads, who had averaged exactly three goals per game through the league season, would take the title.

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