Thame United 1 Oxford City 3

Saturday 1st October 2011
Thame United 1 Oxford City 3
FA Cup with Budweiser Second Qualifying Round
At: ASM Stadium at Meadow View Park
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Admission: £6; Programme: £1 (28 pages)
Weather: hot and sunny
Attendance: 462
Duration: first-half: 48:09; second-half: 47:51

FA Cup day again, and, using this season’s method for choosing which tie to attend, a shortlist of nine games. Some were ruled out by distance from home to a realistic list of three games. This intriguing local derby between Hellenic League Thame United and Southern League Oxford City stood out, especially with it being recorded by FATV.

The game was a decent one, played on a perfect playing surface in hot and sunny conditions and for a while a shock result was brewing. Jon Steadman put Thame ahead from the penalty spot against the run of play and the home side held their lead until the game was turned on its head early in the second half. City scored twice in a minute never looked like losing from that point onwards, the only surprise being that they only added one further goal.

After vacating their old Windmill Road ground in 2005 due to a forced eviction, Thame were forced to groundshare until their brand-new ASM Stadium opened back in January. I decided to leave the car at home for a train trip involving two separate tickets via Birmingham as the new ground is just two miles walk from Haddenham and Thame Parkway (H&TP) station on the line from Moor Street to London Marylebone via Bicester. But even though I walked to and from the ground, I must be honest and not recommend it really – no pavements, narrow verges at times and a constant flow of fast-moving traffic on both Thame Road from the station and the A418 from Scotsgrove to the ground. A half-hourly bus service (280 Oxford–Aylesbury serves both a stop a few 100 yards from the ground and the H&TP station. A half-hourly service on a Saturday I think.

The playing surface at the ASA Stadium was superb and perhaps an equally dominant feature along with the stand in front of the substantial club building – named the ‘Thame Crash Repair Centre Stand’. There were two separate sections of seats under the roof – three blocks of four rows on one side of the tunnel for paying spectators and ClubRed season ticket holders (two blocks of 60 and one block of 48 seats) and two blocks of 24 seats each for directors, officials and press on the other side – a total of 216 seats. Fans could stand undercover in the vicinity of the stand behind yellow lines and wit hard-standing around the remainder of the pitch perimeter. The stadium is part of a larger football complex boasting a 3G arena and several grass pitches, as well as plenty of parking.

The cup run has resulted in Thame (eight points from six games) slipping to 16th position in the UHLSPORT Hellenic League Premier Division table. But while they trail fifth placed Ardley United by 12 points, they do have between three and five games in hand on the most of the teams higher up the table. Visitors Oxford (22 points from 10 games) went into this tie flying high in the Evo-Stik Southern League Premier Division table in second position, two points behind leaders AFC Totton.

Oxford City (wearing blue and white hopped shirts, blue shorts and socks) got the game underway attacking the road end in the first half and quickly put Thame under pressure. Nick Bennion, Thame’s keeper, kept his side on level terms with superb saves to tip over a header from Darren Pond and dive full stretch to keep out another header from Wayne Blossom.

However, Thame took the lead against the run of play in the 27th minute. There were few complaints if any when Blossom brought down Alex McDonald inside the area and Jon Steadman sent the penalty into the bottom corner despite 6ft 9in Jason Mooney diving the correct way.

Despite the goal, Oxford continued to dominate and Steve Basham saw a decent shot blocked on the line with Felipe Barcelos seeing a follow-up shot deflected wide for a corner.

Referee Lee Marshallsay faced a tricky decision just before the interval when Bennion raced off his line to challenge Barcelos who was racing down the Oxford left. The outcome – a free-kick to Thame and Barcelos picked up a booking for diving to leave the City fans not best pleased.

At the start of the second Oxford continued where they had left off and Matthew Clarke fired against the left-hand post. Andy Ballard’s long throw from the right caused confusion in the Thame are and Basham headed over.

A classic ‘route-one’ lead to the equaliser in the 50th minute as Oxford turned the game on its head with two goals in as many minutes. Mooney hit a massive clearance down the middle which bounced deep in the Thame half for Basham to head over the advancing Bennion.

A nice move down the left quickly led to the second goal. Basham fed Barcelos who flicked the ball past defender Jon Steadman and placed a low right-foot shot wide of the diving Bennion from 15 yards out into the far right corner of the net.

Bennion produced a decent save to block Blossom’s close range shot resulting from another Ballard long throw and it was perhaps no surprise when City scored a third goal in the 65th minute. A crossfield ball by Wayne Fleet found Ballard on the right who played it forward into the area. Pond took one touch to control the ball before fired home into the far left side of the net.

Wanting more, Oxford continued to create chances. Bennion’s legs kept out a shot from Declan McDonagh while Barcelos, Declan Benjamin and Blossom all went close to adding a fourth goal.

Oxford City pocket prize money of £4500 and the knowledge they are just two wins away from a place in the First Round. If they are drawn away to Hanworth Villa in Monday’s draw then I may well be seeing them in action again in two weeks time.

1-0 Jon Steadman (28 pen)
1-1 Steve Basham (50)
1-2 Felipe Barcelos (51)
1-3 Darren Pond (65)