Late drama at the Cygnet Health Care Stadium saw the Peacocks grab a fully deserved stoppage time equaliser to halt the visitor’s run of five successive National League wins. Fourth placed City arrived in Somerset as a team in form and it showed in the first half as they were comfortably the better side, taking a single goal advantage into the break. However Town turned the contest on its head in the second half to dominate and gained their just reward albeit later than they would have wanted.
Lee Lucas came back into the home side in place of loanee Ollie Tomlinson, the only planned change from the weekend visit to Havant. However with Nat Jarvis tweaking his hamstring in the pre-match warm-up, he was replaced in the starting line-up by the returning Nick McCootie. In front of the lowest League crowd of the season at the Cygnet, City imposed themselves from the off, winning two corners inside the first couple of minutes. Aaron Williams-Bushell also drilled a centre across the face of goal before Peacocks’ keeper Jack Bycroft made his first contribution of the evening when he dived to palm away Josh Ashby’s free kick just past the quarter hour.
Oxford continued to boss possession, Bycroft catching Lewis Miccio’s cross following another raid down the left before Zac Smith posted Town’s first attempt, his blocked shot sparking another City break from Zac McEachran who found Josh Parker on the right edge of the box and his strike stung Bycroft’s gloves as he parried away. Williams-Bushell then narrowly failed to connect with Ashby’s deep free kick before a probing City broke the stalemate on 26 minutes. Parker laid a pass off to Ashby and when his sidefooted effort from 18 yards evaded the reach of Bycroft to hit the post, the rebound fell nicely for Alfie Potter to tuck into an empty net.
The sum total of the home side’s efforts in the first 35 minutes amounted to McCootie finding keeper Adnan Kanuric with a tame cross plus Smith’s blocked shot but the omens marginally improved eight minutes before the interval when a poor clearance from City reached Dylan Morgan who found McCootie. His pass deflected to Lucas who saw his drive from just outside the box punched over by Kanuric for a Jay Foulston corner, cleared as far as Lucas again who this time skimmed a half volley wide of the far post. City had the last say though of the half, McEachran lofting a pass to Lewis Coyle whose fierce strike from a tight angle could not beat that man Bycroft.
Home spirits at half time were in need of a kick up the proverbial, not helped by the thick drizzle now shrouding the Cygnet Stadium. Another half time readjustment did the trick. The Peacocks emerged with some verve, some belief and most importantly some threat. Three minutes in and a Lucas free kick from the right reached Jake Wannell who couldn’t get enough venom in his shot as he scooped it to Kanuric. Sims-Burgess then headed wide from Wannell’s cross before the Town No 20 tried his luck from the narrowest of angles to volley well wide.
A Foulston corner was then knocked on to Grimes at the far post, his header being nodded off the line by Coyle. Two more corners followed in quick succession for Town who were now well and truly on the front foot. Morgan, fresh from his wonder strike at Havant, aimed to repeat the feat when he darted forward, skipping past a couple of opponents on the edge of the box but just missing the target with his low shot.
Ross Stearn replaced McCootie on the hour while Peacocks’ supporters were cheered to see the figure of Ollie Chamberlain enter the field of play two minutes later, having been out of action for three weeks, taking over from Cameron Evans who seconds earlier had flicked a header over the top from a Lucas cross. Chamberlain was soon making his presence felt, cutting inside and finding Stearn who volleyed over the bar. Initially regarded as a missed opportunity but the flag was up so no harm done.
Stearn had another shot blocked as Town kept on the offensive, with Oxford looking a shadow of their first half selves. In fact they barely got out of their own half for the first half of the second half (if you follow). It took them until the 74th minute to launch their opening attack which won them a corner. Suddenly they began to wake up and started to pose some questions for the Town defence who had had a quiet second half up until that point. A City break five minutes from time saw Parker gain enough space past Grimes to deliver a shot from the left which Bycroft got down well to parry and eventually claim the ball ahead of Ashby.
The final minutes of the evening proved eventful in more ways than one. Lucas, already booked at the end of the first half, picked up a second caution for a challenge on Reece Fleet and departed the action with three minutes left. Numbers were then evened up on the 90 minutes when Parker kicked the ball away after the whistle and received his second yellow of the night to leave it 10 v 10 for the five minutes of stoppage time.
It came down to the last throw of the dice with play already into the sixth extra minute due to more added time. Stearn was pushed over on the right to earn a free kick and Town flooded the box with claret and green, with keeper Bycroft also venturing upfield. Foulston swung in the free kick, Grimes got his head on it at the far post and Sims-Burgess was there inside the six yard box to drive home into the roof of the net to the elation of the Showtime Attraction End terrace and leave City with the same sense of feeling robbed as the Peacocks experienced in the reverse fixture in October when a suspect penalty decision in added time had condemned them to defeat. A well-earned point in retrospect but had the second half performance been replicated over 90 minutes then who knows….
Taunton: Jack Bycroft, Jay Foulston, Nick Grimes (captain), Jake Wannell, Lloyd James (Joe Guest 67), Nick McCootie (Ross Stearn 60), Zac Smith, Cameron Evans (Ollie Chamberlain 62), Dave Sims-Burgess, Dylan Morgan, Lee Lucas. Unused subs: Nat Jarvis, Ollie Tomlinson
Oxford City: Adnan Kanuric, Lewis Miccio, Josh Ashby, Andre Burley, Lewis Coyle, Reece Fleet (captain), Zac McEachran (Joe Iaciofano 90+4), Josh Parker, Alfie Potter (Klaidi Lolos 87), Aaron Williams-Bushell, Canice Carroll. Unused subs: Jack Davies, Jayden Carbon, Alex Grantham
Referee: Craig Scriven (Highbridge)
Referee’s Assistant 1: Colin Hubbard (Wimborne)
Referee’s Assistant 2: James Welsh (Salisbury)
“It was late in the day but it was thoroughly deserved, we had enough chances to win that game in the second half….” watch Rob Dray’s Match Reaction on Peacocks TV HERE
Match Highlights can be seen on Peacocks TV HERE
Mind In Somerset MOM
Jack Bycroft receives the Taunton Town Man Of The Match award from Vice Chairman Brian Pollard