Oxford City 3, East Thurrock United 3
ROCKS came back from a goal down three times to earn a share of the points at the Community Stadium and though manager John Coventry paid tribute to his side’s character, he was disappointed with the performance.
However, but for some first half profligacy Oxford would have been several goals to the good, leaving Rocks little chance to get back into the game. The hosts dominated the first half as Rocks were lethargic and second to most challenges.
It took Oxford just four minutes to take the lead as East Thurrock struggled to come to terms with a very difficult 3G surface. Rock were finding judging the pace of the ball and timing a tackle difficult, so much so they allowed City’s Portsmouth loanee Christian Oxlade-Chamberlain – the 19 year old brother of Liverpool and England star Alex – to run through their defence unchallenged and he delivered a low cross that found Dave Pearce at the near post and he converted with ease.
Oxford might have added to the lead before Rocks drew level on 13 minutes when Sam Higgins curled in his seventh goal of the season from a free kick outside the box.
Oxford continued to dominate, though both Lewis Smith and Higgins forced good saves from City’s keeper Jack Stevens.
Several good chances went begging for Oxford before they regained the lead on 35 minutes when the Rocks defence opened up and Matt Patterson strolled through, rounded keeper Lukas Lidakevicius and tapped the ball home
Oxlade-Chamberlain should have doubled the lead on the stroke of half time but his header from close range passed inches wide of the far post.
East Thurrock were improved after the break and began to exert continued pressure on the home defence, which finally cracked just after the hour when Higgins delivered a superb ball into the box and in an effort to clear Christian Navarro dived to head the ball inside his own post.
The goal revitalised City and a corner gave them the route back into the game that they needed, on 75 minutes when Reece Fleet rose highest at the near post to head home as Rocks’ defence again went awol.
East Thurrock were undeterred and showed deservedly extended their unbeaten run when Lee Burns met an excellent cross from Reece Harris on 80 minutes to tie the game up.
There was still time for Rocks to get the goal that would have put them top of the table and they came close when Smith lashed a good chance over the bar.
After the game Coventry said: “I have to pay tribute to the character of the team, yet again they showed a lot of it but once again I have to be concerned about how they got themselves into the position of needing to show that character.
“They have lots of ability and it’s a talented squad that should be bossing games a bit more at times. I would like to see them showing a bit more and getting into games earlier, rather than having to come back. Having said that it was difficult out there, Oxford a better side than their league position suggests and there will be teams that come here and get nothing so we have to be happy going home with a point, still unbeaten.”