Mansfield Road play at The University Club which is, oddly enough, on Mansfield Road a stone's throw from Oxford City Centre. The ground is accessed through the University Club or, as I found out at the end, via a service road which runs down the side of the club building. You then pass across a gravel path and down the side of a single story building that appears to be constructed completely out of some kind of plastic. I was told by a Heyford supporter that this building sits on top of what was, until a few year's back, beautifully manicured lawns which made the ground one of the more picturesque in the area.
The playing surface is no hemmed in by this new building on one side, St Cross Road opposite and a much more impressive university building at the far end. It's a good flat pitch but did appear to be quite heavy after rain overnight.
At the start of play you would have to put both teams in the 'bubbling under' category. The home side were fourth in the table, eight points adrift of leaders Freeland but with a game in hand which could put them right back in the mix. Heyford, the current reigning champions, although two places and five points worse off than Mansfield Road, were possibly in stronger position. With four games in hand on the leaders they could, in theory, jump up to second place and only be a point adrift, should they win them all.
The sides had not met yet this season. However, last season Heyford did the double on their way to the title, winning 1-0 at home and 2-1 in this fixture. The season before that, both games had been home wins, 4-2 in favour of Heyford and 3-2 in favour of Mansfield Road.
Both sides had suffered just one defeat in the league all season and Mansfield Road could boast an unbeaten home record.
It was clear from the first whistle (which incidentally came 12 minutes later than scheduled) that neither side was going to give any quarter in this game. Athletic, backed by an impressive number of travelling support, looked particularly up for the game and immediately began to pen their opponents back. When Mansfield Road did get into the Heyford half the visitors defence looked strong and organised, leaving goalkeeper McNamara as a spectator for much of the time.
However, despite their superiority in possession, Heyford could not find a way past the home goalkeeper, resplendent in an all white kit, who made a couple of good stops in the opening 25 minutes.
The opening goal came on 29 minutes. Heyford won a corner on the left and, from the resulting kick, Jacob Goddard rose highest to glance a header into the far corner of the home goal. 0-1.
Heyford were piling on the pressure now and it was only the acrobatics and bravery of the hoe goalkeeper that prevented them from getting a second. One save, in the 35th minute, led to a stoppage in play as the home stopper appeared to collide with one of his posts whilst going full length to stop a Heyford free-kick.
However, even the home keeper was powerless to prevent Kieran Chambers from slamming home the second Athletic goal on 38 minutes. 0-2.
HT Mansfield Road 0 Heyford Athletic 2. A comfortable first 45 minutes for the visitors. No real threat from Mansfield Road yet.
The second half followed in the same vein as the first. Heyford never looking threatened at the back and always likely to get another one themselves. Mansfield Road certainly put a shift in and never stopped trying to get back into the game but, on the day, I think even they would concede that they were second-best. Their goalkeeper, clearly still feeling the effects of his fist-half post collision, could not take goal-kicks but still managed to pull off a few more very good saves as he strove to keep his side in the game. The fact that he would be my man of the match shows the dominance of the way side.
There was no further scoring but Heyford's solid display eased them through to the three points. Mansfield Road, who it has to be said looked a decent side themselves, were just outplayed on the day, suffering their first home defeat of the season.
FT Mansfield Road 0 Heyford Athletic 2.
Heyford Athletic: McNamara (GK), M.Gardner, Jenkins(c), Evans, Truman, Philpott, Goddard, S.Gardner, Dawe, Chambers, Lloyd
Ground Number: 186