Sunday, 11 December 2011

Oxford City - Court Place Farm

Oxford City FC
Court Place Farm
Marsh Lane

Ground Number: 40
Tuesday 21st July 1999
Oxford City 0-3 Wycombe Wanderers
Pre Season Friendly


Oxford City FC was established in 1883, playing in local leagues until joining the Isthmian League in 1907. Whilst the league was a single division, Oxford City were twice runners-up - in 1935 and 1946. They were Oxford's biggest team at this point, but Headington United (later to become Oxford United) turning professional in 1949, saw a gradual decline in their fortunes. In 1973, the Isthmian League introduced a second tier and although City were initially placed in the top division, they were relegated in 1976 following a second-bottom finish. They'd return to the top tier in 1978, but despite becoming a limited company and the high profile appointment of Bobby Moore, with Harry Redknapp as his assistant, the club struggled and only lasted two seasons at the higher level. The next few seasons saw a mixed set of finishes, with the club hitting an all-time low when they were evicted from their White Horse ground by landlords Brasenose College (most famous for offering current TalkSPORT presenter Mike Parry an interview before turning him down) in 1988. With nowhere to play, they were forced to resign from the league and drop out of semi-professional football for a couple of years.

In 1990, the club had arrangments in place, later moving to their current home at Court Place Farm. They joined the South MIdlands League in 1990, starting in its second tier. Five promotions in six seasons saw Oxford City start the 1996/97 season in the Isthmian Premier, although just two seasons were spent there before City were relegated back to Division 1. Geographical reasons saw the club switched to the Southern League in 2004 and this saw City relegated back to the Spartan South Midlands League in 2005, though they bounced back as champions in their first season. They've not looked back since, winning promotion to the Southern Premier in 2008 and then the Conference North in 2012. They've since switched to the Conference South, but are now firmly established at step 2 of the non-league pyramid, with a best-ever finish of 6th in  2015.

In the FA Cup, Oxford City has had a number of notable FA Cup runs, with the record progress coming in 1969. That season they beat Kings Lynn and Cheltenham Town before a 5-1 defeat at home to Swansea Town in the 2nd Round. The club also holds the record for the number of replays to settle an FA Cup replay, needing 6 matches before Alvechurch beat them 1-0 at Aston Villa in the 1971/72 season. Subsequent replays have since been abolished, but my own team Wycombe Wanderers needed 3 games to get past Oxford City in the 1999/00 season as the initial replay was abandoned prior to a penalty shoot-out, thanks to a suspected fire at Adams Park. Oxford City won the FA Amateur Cup in 1906, beating Bishop Auckland at Stockton. The club were runners-up in the FA Vase in 1995, losing 2-1 to Arlesey Town at Wembley. Record progress in the FA Trophy has been the 3rd Round, which has been achieved on three occasions. Locally, the Oxford Senior Cup has been lifted a record 32 times, whilst their biggest ever attendance came in July this year as 2,276 came as local side Oxford United came to open the club's new 3G pitch.


My first visit to Oxford City came in July 1999 and was the first match I'd driven to, having passed my driving test earlier that season. I gave a lift to a few mates and we watched as Wycombe strolled to a 3-0 victory on a warm evening. Two goals from Michael Simpson and one from Steve Brown saw Wycombe through safely.

I visited twice more for Wycombe friendlies, both featuring a mixture of youth and reserve team players.  Firstly in 2005 Wycombe triumphed 2-1 with Ikechi Anya opening the scoring, following a goal after a jinking run, James Faulkner doubled the lead, following up Shahed Ahmed's shot just before halftime. Though Danny Keen reduced the arrears three minutes after the break, the game was most notable for a nasty head injury to our new striker Charlie Griffin, which required hospital treatment. Then, in 2013 I visited for a Friday night clash, although for some reason I did not update my blog, despite buying a programme. A fairly low key game saw a 1-1 draw with Albi Skendi opening the scoring on 11 minutes and Jon-Paul Pittman equalising for Wycombe on 38 minutes.


With Wycombe playing on Sunday it was a good chance to go and see another team in action. After working a rare-ish Saturday till 12, due to all our Muslim staff celebrating their Eid festival, I set off for the short trip to Court Place Farm, home of Southern League Oxford City.

Oxford City had 4 former Wycombe players in their side. Firstly Stuart Cattell, the young Defender on loan, who was enjoying his second spell with them. Also, Ikechi Anya, Jermaine McSporran and James Faulkner who has played in various capacities over the years made up the forward 3 for the home side. I'd been to Court Place farm for a couple of preseason friendlies before which were both one comfortably by the Chairboys. And who could forget the 3 match duel against them in the FA Cup in 1999. After drawing the first game we went to a replay, that also ending in a draw and (we thought) a penalty shootout. But just as the spot kicks were about to start a 'fire' started in the main stand, and the game was abandoned. In the rearranged replay Wycombe eventually triumphed, the game being played at Oxford United's old Manor Ground.

Farnborough also had a former Wycombe player, Steve Dell who played a few games for us in 2003 under Lawrie Sanchez. The newly formed club, still playing at their original Cherrywood Road ground. After the original Farnborough Town club went bust the new club was entered into the Southern League. Despite dropping a couple of divisions they still had a sizable support present at today's game, with about 60 making the journey from Hampshire. Farnborough Town had some good battles with Wycombe in the Vauxhall Conference with Wycombe mainly coming out on top, but they were always a decent side with the Conference's top scorer at the time, David Leworthy amongst their ranks. Since Wycombe's promotion to the Football League, their fortunes altered somewhat but looked to have changed when another former Wycombe man Graham Westley took over the club. But the joy was short lived. After changing their colours and their ground name Westley pulled out his money and went off to Stevenage Borough. The resulting dire straits eventually led to their demise, but thanks to fan power they still exist, albeit in a different guise.

It was a good game, which City had the chances to and should have won. But the officials didn't help with some poor decisions. Firstly they should have taken the lead when McSporran was wrongly ruled to have been offside. Farnborough then took the lead themselves with a well-worked goal, finished off by Neville Roach. The same man then scored again, miles offside, but the linesman who must have been asleep at the time just waved play on.

So 2-0 at the break, with Oxford City looking to get back into the game. And they started the second half well, the pressure eventually leading to them reducing the arrears. James Faulkner crossed after good work by himself, setting up McSporran for the goal. Despite more pressure, it was Farnborough who got the next goal, Farnborough's number 11, sporting a daft haircut raced away from the City defence before finishing well to make it 3-1. City then had another perfectly good goal ruled offside before getting a late consolation from the spot from their giant number 12, just on as a sub.


Originally on this day, I'd been planning on a trip to a new ground, although with both of my fellow hoppers busy, I decided on something as local as possible. Although I'd been to Oxford City as recently as 2013, I'd failed to update my blog and so with their Nomads team playing Longlevens, I decided a revisit was in order. Though I'd been to Court Place Farm four times previously, my most recent experiences of watching Oxford City were as they played away. Back when they were in the Conference North, I used to buy one of the spare spaces on their team coach which worked out at a great value way to tick far-flung grounds. All told, I managed to see games at Halifax Town, Colwyn Bay, Stalybridge Celtic and Altrincham for little more than it cost me to get to Oxford in the first place. Though it meant some late midweek nights as I had to wait for the team, it was all very friendly and enjoyable.

On the day of the game, I had work as usual from 5 am until midday. I came home and had some nice chicken enchiladas for lunch before spending the afternoon researching upcoming games. Looking at the news around Oxford City, the whole reason for tonight's game being on a Friday was due to the fact that they have Bognor Regis Town in the FA Cup. Oxford City have an excellent record in the FA Cup for a club of their stature, last reaching the 1st Round in 2011 as they lost to Redbridge after a replay. Looking at tonight's game, Oxford City Nomads were near the bottom of the table in 16th place, whilst Longlevens were in 8th, having a decent away record, winning 3, drawing 1 and losing 1 on their travels so far. After having a nice dinner of Thai Green Curry, I got my stuff together and left just after 6.30. I listened to Simon Mayo’s Confessions podcast on the way, with the only delay being a slow spot between Stokenchurch and Thame on the M40. I got to the ground at 7.25, paying the standard £6 charge to get in. I got some pictures of the ground, which had seen a new stand added since my last visit. I went in the bar and noted that they had Stowford Press and Stella Cidre for cider drinkers, plus a real ale. I wasn’t indulging tonight, at least not until I got home. The ground looked a bit better at night, with the backdrop of Oxford looking decent, if not quite as impressive as Canary Wharf behind Fisher’s ground.

It looked as if Oxford City had included a few first team players in their team, one that jumped out at me was Will McEachran whose brother Josh plays for Brentford. The hosts started on the front foot and were ahead as early as the third minute. A well-worked move from the right resulted in a cross from Sammy Khawaja and a tap-in from Connor Mattimore. On 17 minutes, it was 2-0 when a Liam Talboys shot from the edge of the area caught the Longlevens keeper out to double the lead. The Nomads were well in control at this point and had a shot cleared off the line on 20 minutes. On the half-hour, it was 3-0 - another well-worked move and cross from the right by Sammy Khawaja set up Will McEachran for a shot from just outside the six-yard box.  Ten minutes later, Longlevens reduced the arrears and it was a decent goal too, a volley from the edge of the box by Myron Turner. The hosts restored their three-goal lead a couple of minutes before halftime. After working so hard to set up others goals, Khawaja got on the scoresheet himself, rounding the visiting keeper and firing into the empty net after the glovesman had been caught out of position. The second half saw plenty of endeavour, but little in terms of real efforts on goal. Oxford City got their 5th with a great free kick from Siyanda Gila which you can see below.

A post shared by Russell Cox (@russ_wwfc) on

It had been a decent enough contest to watch, with me leaving at 9.40. I listened to the rest of my podcast on the way home, eventually listening to the Two Mikes on TalkSPORT. The result lifted the Nomads up to 9th in the Hellenic Premier. After stopping for petrol at ASDA, I got in at 10.15, the whole night costing me £13 with petrol included. I cracked open a couple of ciders while listening to the Two Mikes, looking forward to the Wycombe game against Exeter tomorrow. Oxford City must be favourites for their game against Bognor Regis and I'll be keeping an eye on that and other cup ties for potential 1st Round opponents for Wycombe in Monday's FA Cup draw.


COURT PLACE FARM is not the most interesting of grounds, although it is smart and functional. There are stands on 4 sides, three terraced and one seated. All in all, the stadium provides seating for 520 and an overall capacity of 3,218. There's not a huge amount around the area, though shops and other amenities are around 15 minutes walk away. Facilities at the ground include a well-stocked tea bar, a basic club house and a club shop selling a small range of merchandise.


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