Having failed to find the net in their last two games (the first successive blanks of the season) it was vital that Nomads rediscovered their touch in front of goal to ensure the destiny of the championship remained in their hands right up to next Saturday’s final round of fixtures.
Nomads might have settled their nerves within the first couple of minutes as a deep cross from James Dobson on the left was mis-headed back across his own goal by Flanagan and Ben Moses, now recovered from a dead-leg that had kept him out for a fortnight, headed over from close range.
The home side were looking the livelier and, in the first ten minutes, three or four half-chances came and went, while the visitors were finding it hard to get beyond the back-line and had to wait until the 11th minute for a first chance as Alan Foster did well to punch clear as ex-City man Mark Janes rose to head an accurate cross from Daryl Harris. Piers McGlynn later outpaced his marker on the left but his centre was just too deep for Adam Lovegrove
On 15 minutes Conor McDonagh got to the by-line and presented Pablo Haysham with a good chance that flew just wide, and soon afterwards a well-struck shot from McDonagh was spilled by Gareth Walker to be scrambled away before a Nomads player could capitalise.
There was plenty of patient build-up by the hosts, but equally determined defending from the visitors meant much of that approach work ended in hasty, off-target finishes from Nomads or hopeful shots from beyond the box.
Nomads did come very close to breaking the stalemate on 25 minutes as Denel Thomas jinked his way into a crowded box and his (mishit?) shot surprised the defence and bounced gently back off a post. Soon after McDonagh went close yet again after being cleverly set up by Haysham.
Foster was having one of his quieter afternoons in the Nomads’ goal with his defence generally on the top of their game in front of him. Joel Meade’s anticipation allowed him to cut out several potentially dangerous passes, while Kamran Abbasi’s head tended to be the first to many crosses.
The home side finally made the decisive breakthrough on 40 minutes as Josias Carbon collected a throw-in and pressed on to the by-line before setting up McDonagh to shoot hard and low between Walker and his left-hand post.
Within a couple of minutes, though, Abingdon should have been level as they found themselves with a man over at the other end only for McGlynn to side-foot his shot past the post with an open goal at his mercy.
Half-Time: Oxford City Nomads 1-0 Abingdon Town
A quick one-two with Jemaine Ferreira allowed Carbon a sight of goal soon after the restart but his shot sped just wide of the mark, while, for the visitors, Mark Janes looked to be in the clear but was brought back by an off-side flag.
On 50 minutes Nomads doubled their tally when a long ball was swung out to Denel Thomas and he made ground down the right before whipping in a low centre that McDonagh met first-time to give Walker no chance from short range.
The two-goal buffer settled any residual nerves and Nomads now began to play with increased freedom and confidence. A cross from Carbon just evaded both Haysham and McDonagh; a neat reverse pass from Moses allowed McDonagh a chance to test Walker with a cross-shot which the keeper did really well to push over at full stretch; and Dobson tried one of his trademark, and frequently successful, thunderbolts that was possibly still rising by the time it reached the by-pass.
With the home side now on top in midfield, Abingdon were finding it hard to bring any pressure to bear on Foster’s goal, although a couple of corners curled in by ex-Nomad Corey Forbes kept the defence on its toes, and another ex-Nomad, Rhys Denton, fired across the face of the goal from a narrow angle.
With ten minutes left McDonagh might have secured his hat-trick as he fastened onto a through ball, but Walker was quickly off his line and the Nomads’ striker’s lob was wide of the mark. A similar pass set substitute Louis Joyce on his way moments later, but Julian McCalmon was quick to spot the problem and produced an excellent covering tackle.
Though Janes’ sprint to the by-line produced a pull-back from which Denton almost got a telling touch Nomads were still to have the final word. A long diagonal pass was chased and claimed by Adam Morris wide on the right and his centre was flicked home between near-post and keeper by Joyce with just three minutes left on the clock.
So Nomads finish their home fixtures in this hugely successful and entertaining season on a high note and now travel to Wokingham & Emmbrook next Saturday knowing that a win (and quite probably even a draw) will bring them the Hellenic championship.
Oxford City Nomads: Foster, Carbon, Dobson, Meade, Abbasi, Thomas D, Ferreira (Gardner J 82), Morris, McDonagh, Haysham (McEachran 63), Moses (Joyce 80).
|Oxford City Nomads||3||0||Abingdon Town||Att. 82|
|Reading Town||5||3||Bracknell Town||Att. 111|
|Witney Town||1||2||Cheltenham Saracens||Att. 51|
|Kidlington||2||2||Wantage Town||Att. 62|
|Highworth Town||2||0||Wokingham & Emmbrook||Att. 57|
|Ardley United||1||2||Fairford Town||Att. 34|
|Flackwell Heath||1||1||Shortwood United||Att. 41|
|Henley Town||0||1||Binfield||Att. 66|
|Slimbridge||2||0||Thame United||Att. 29|