Ross Jenkins’ side sit in 22nd, four points below Dorking, who have two games in hand over The Hoops, both sides head into Boxing Day on the back of 2-1 defeats. Despite being 1-0 up with an hour played in their last outing against Solihull Moors, Oxford were consigned to their third defeat on the spin, a Jack Stevens goal in the 88th minute clinching all three points for The Moors. Meanwhile, down on the south coast, the final Wanderers away day of 2023 ended in defeat at the Silverlake on Saturday, though the Wanderers boss spoke positively of his sides performance after the defeat, stating there were “lots of positives to take”, with the aim now to “keep a lot of continuity” within the squad, as key players make their return to full fitness.
“Eastleigh had that little bit of nous” stated White in his post-match interview. That nous perhaps evidenced in Eastleigh’s persistence to load the box from set-pieces, which led to the opener; Ludwig Francillette heading home Chris Maguire’s cross in the latter stages of the first half to put the hosts in front. Tom Blair replaced Matt Briggs at half-time – the pair making their first appearances after long-term layoffs due to injury, Seb Bowerman was also introduced later in the game to make his first appearance in two months. Eastleigh doubled their lead on the hour mark through National League top scorer Paul McCallum, continuing his rich reign of form. Bowerman pulled one back for Dorking with eight minutes of regulation time to play, but an equaliser proved elusive for the visitors, who fell to their second defeat in as many games.
The returns of Blair, Bowerman and Briggs at Eastleigh came as a welcome sight; providing much needed depth in the wide areas. Marc White will still however remain without his talisman, Jason Prior, and Dan Pybus for Boxing Day.
Opposition Focus – The Hoops
City’s first ever campaign in the fifth tier has been a challenging one thus far, The Hoops currently have the worst defensive record in the division, conceding 50 goals in 25 games. Jenkins’ side are without a win in over a month, their last victory coming away at fellow relegation candidates, Ebbsfleet United.
Despite sitting in and around the drop zone, the league standings’ tight nature renders the upcoming double header between Dorking and City an opportunity to move up the league, only six points separates 16th and 22nd.
Among the bottom nine teams in the division, no attack has been more potent than City’s with an admirable 36 goal return. Zac McEachran, who scored City’s opener against Solihull on Saturday, has continued to impress in Jenkins’ side after making the National League South Team of the Season last year. Oliver Sanderson, who arrived in the summer on loan from Fulham’s U21’s, has netted eight times from midfield this season – the 19-year-old has been among the stand-out teenagers in the division this campaign. Oxford’s top scorer is Josh Parker, with nine goals.
Last Time We Met
Oxford haven’t had much joy in recent visits to Meadowbank. Their last visit was in May of 2022 in the play-off semi final, where goals from Prior and Barry Fuller put White’s side 2-0 up inside 18 minutes. Alfie Rutherford later added to the scoring, sending Dorking through to the play-off final. For those that enjoy revelling in some nostalgia, this was the starting lineup that day – Lincoln, Fuller, Harris, Cheadle, Muitt, Taylor, McShane, Moore, Wheeler, Rutherford, Prior
Earlier on in that season, a Darren Oldaker free kick earned Wanderers a 1-0 win, consigning City to their first away league defeat in over a year.