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OXFORD CITY FC - HISTORY & STATISTICS

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© Chris Byrne 2010

2015-2016

2015-6

The FA Leagues’ Committee eventually confirmed what had been suspected for a while, namely that City would move to the southern section of Step 2, now renamed the Vanarama National League South. The general feeling was mainly positive, with a reduction in mileage and some revisiting of old acquaintances, though it was also felt that the ‘bigger’ clubs and the high level of hospitality (better pies?) in the North would be missed. There was also a feeling that the South might suit City’s manner of play better than the possibly more physical approach in the North.
Though the move to a 3G pitch didn’t occur as there were still planning issues, and the timetable for completion would have been too tight, Justin Merritt and Enrique Guillen again recruited a number of Spanish players – Jon Arzamendi and Julen Lafuente would both play in more than forty fixtures - and kept the emphasis on ‘the passing game’. Adi Yussuf, after his excellent goal-scoring feats for City the previous season was taken on by Mansfield Town, but Bradley Bubb, a Grenada international who had been at Havant & Waterlooville the previous year, joined, and very quickly proved his worth.
With the move South there were a number of other geographically-related ins and outs, including Tom Winters rejoining Brackley Town which was a particular disappointment for the supporters. However, Luke Coulson remained at Marsh Lane and, for half of the season, was to prove what an influential player he was.
The pre-season began with a comfortable 4-1 win at Hungerford Town (who would have an excellent Southern League season ending in promotion to Step Two via the play-offs), but, apart from a 6-0 win at Beaconsfield, most were close-run affairs, though there was a 4-1 defeat at Solihull Moors who would go on to take the Northern half of Step Two by storm.
The season kicked off at Marsh Lane with the visit of Chelmsford City. Level at the break, the visitors went ahead ten minutes into the second half only for Bradley Bubb to open his account for City with an early contender for goal-of-the-season as he equalised from the half-way line directly from the kick-off. The result rather set the tone for much of the season with another eight home draws being rather too many for a club with promotion aspirations.
Though there was a loss at Havant & Waterlooville a fortnight later, by mid-September City had moved into second place after a 2-1 home win against Dartford and maintained that position until mid-November. They closed the year in fourth place with just over half their matches completed and a very healthy goal difference by virtue of the best ‘for’ total in the division and also one of the meanest defences. As in recent seasons, when the quick-passing plan really worked they were very hard to play against – for instance in the visit to Truro City, who would make the play-offs, when they were firing on all cylinders and ran out 6-0 winners.

There were worries in the FA Cup when City were again paired with Southern League Shortwood United who had dismissed them the previous season. This time though the Gloucestershire side would have to visit Marsh Lane. A penalty from Bradley Bubb gave City the lead, and Omari Sterling-James, on loan from Cheltenham Town, finished off a flowing move after the break to double the lead. However, a converted penalty for the visitors caused a few nervous minutes before Sterling-James netted his second of the game to see City through.
A visit to old Isthmian rivals Bognor Regis Town in the Third Round Qualifying was next up, but City were not at their best in Sussex and their hosts battled through to the next round on the back of a 4-2 win. Though they went out of the competition at Wealdstone in the next round, Bognor went on to have a strong league season and ended as runners-up in the Isthmian Premier, just one point behind Hampton & Richmond.
The FA Trophy draw produced a possible banana-skin when Marlow, a relatively local opponent who had historically given City problems, visited Marsh Lane, but a controlled performance brought a 6-3 win. Conference South leaders Ebbsfleet United were next out of the hat, but two goals from Declan Benjamin and another from Luke Coulson drove City through to a 3-1 win.
City into Round Two then, as far as they had ever advanced before, and an enjoyable, if testing, tie in prospect as the draw sent Cheltenham Town, back into the Conference for the first time in almost a decade and now Conference National leaders, to Oxford. City lead twice, but a late goal four minutes into added-time took the clubs back to Whaddon Road, where City had a relatively comfortable 3-0 victory against a youthful Robins. Through to the last sixteen for the first time City travelled to Woking where, despite a battling performance, City were defeated by a single goal just before the break.
Just before the turn of the year the news came through that American Mr Thomas Guerriero, who had become involved with Oxford City in 2013 with a stated intent of helping to push the Club much further up the Pyramid, and had become a director and President, had stepped down because of ill-health. Following quickly on from this news came the information that he had been arrested in the USA on fraud charges, details of which steadily and concerningly emerged.
Luke Coulson, very much a fans’ favourite and clearly a player of considerable quality, was finally tempted away by Conference National play-off challengers Eastleigh in January and played his last match in the replay at Cheltenham. His morale-boosting influence on the side was very evident, and he had scored several important goals: none perhaps more memorable than his stunning strike at Ebbsfleet in the 1-1 draw in November.

Coulson L

LUKE COULSON...a catalyst for much of City's early-season success.

One player can’t make a side, but many commented on the downturn in results that followed in the wake of Coulson’s departure - there were only another three wins in the following nineteen league matches - and the first league match after his move saw City hammered 5-2 at relegation-threatened Weston-super-Mare.
Bradley Bubb continued to find the target regularly – he eventually scored 24 in all competitions – and sides around City also dropped points, so they were still in a play-off spot until near the end of March. However, only two points from the last seven games saw them slip to a final position of twelfth.
A 1-0 win against Banbury United, who would be taken straight back up to the Southern League Premier by Mike Ford, and a 2-1 win against FA Vase semi-final heroes and Hellenic champions Kidlington took City through to the Final of the Oxfordshire Senior Cup where they met Oxford United in mid-May. United put out a young side and City, with many injuries and the return of the Spanish contingent to Spain, struggled to put out a really representative side. Though tested at times by City, and a McDonagh goal just before the break briefly suggested City might come back in the second half, United went on to win the competition for the fourteenth time 6-1, with James Roberts, whom City had had on loan for several matches earlier in the season, scoring four.
Oxford City Nomads made a fine start to their league campaign, and with nine wins under their belts at the end of September were briefly top of the pile. Progress then ground to a sudden and inexplicable halt as the side then failed to win another match until mid-February, by which time they had slid down the table to fourteenth, when a single goal was enough to claim all the points at Ardley United who were having an uncharacteristically poor season. Having discovered the winning-formula again, the side then won eight of its last eleven fixtures to regain some of the lost ground and finish ninth.
In the FA Vase they got over the first two hurdles with an assured 4-0 victory over Buckingham Town and then a 5-1 win at Henley Town, but were unable to overcome Southern Counties East side Deal Town – winners of the competition in 2000 – in Kent, going down 4-2.
In the Oxfordshire Senior Cup Headington Amateurs were beaten 3-1 in Round 1, and Round 2 saw a comprehensive 6-1 defeat of Eynsham Association. But they were eased out of the competition at the next stage by old rivals Ardley United, 2-0.
The League Cup saw wins against Abingdon United and Holyport before a loss in Round Three at Lydney Town; while Thatcham Town ended their Floodlit Cup involvement at the first hurdle.
The Nomads Development side, reigning Hellenic Division Two (West) champions, had another stunning season under Paul Mulvany’s managership and piled on the goals as they raced to the championship again remaining undefeated in their twenty-two league fixtures…and only drawing three. Goal-scorer-in-chief was Rasho Dawood who notched up forty-two in a total of twenty-eight matches. In this total he scored four hat-tricks; two hat-tricks+one; one hat-trick+two; and one double hat-trick. Connor Mattimore with an excellent strike-rate of twenty-four in twenty-eight matches was next on the list. In all competitions they scored one hundred and forty-six goals whilst only conceding thirty-three.
With such a goal-scoring record it was a little surprising that they lost out in all three cup competitions in which they took part. In the Oxfordshire Intermediate Cup, of which they were the holders, they sailed serenely through the first two rounds, beating Old Woodstock Town Reserves 7-0 and then demolishing Oxford Irish 12-1, but were cut down to size in the Quarter-finals 5-2 by eventual winners Thame Rangers.
As defending cup-holders, they lost at the first attempt in the Hellenic Chairman’s Challenge Cup by the odd goal in three to Purton Reserves – one of only three sides to take league points off them.
In the Hellenic President’s Cup they successfully negotiated three stages to reach the final, played at Henley Town’s ground, and were very much the bookies’ favourite to take the cup against a Wokingham & Emmbrook Reserves side that had had a fairly poor season in Division Two (East) winning only four matches. However, the Sumas turned the form-book on its head on the day to take the cup with the only goal of the match.
Oxford City Lions Futsal side continued to go from strength to strength and capped a terrific season with a victory in the Manchester Velodrome at the end of May in the FA Futsal Cup Final, when they beat London-based side Genesis 6-4, having overcome Enfield 6-2 in their semi-final earlier in the day. And in the Superleague Grand Final, held at St George's Park in Burton in June, the Lions overcame their great rivals Buku United 5-3 and then beat Helvecia 3-2 on penalties following a 3-3 draw after extra-time. A particularly praisworthy performance given their keeper had ben red-carded quite early on and they played most of the match with an outfield player between the sticks.
As the season drew to a close the planning stages for the 3G pitch were finally negotiated though there still were a few details to be ironed out before any final decision could be made, leaving the question of grass or plastic to hang in the air into late May. Possibly – or not - related to this uncertainty, it was decided to put the ‘Spanish Experiment’ on hold for the time being, and first squad acquisitions were announced, unofficially by players’ Tweets(!), early in May. Also following hot on the heels of the end of the playing season came the not-unexpected news that Thomas Guerriero had been given a twelve-year prison sentence in the US for fraud. Whether this would have any long-term effect on the Club remained to be seen.

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