A goal from Jevani Brown and a first professional goal for Sonny Cox were not enough to stop first half three goal onslaught as the Grecians were convincingly beaten 4-2 by Oxford United.
City found themselves with a mountain to climb at the break as goals from Cameron Brannagan, Sam Long and Kyle Joseph - who also added a fourth in the second half - put Oxford well ahead. Goals from Brown and Cox before the final whistle did at least narrow the winning margin.
With injuries and illness throughout the squad, Kevin Nicholson was forced into more changes following Tuesday’s loss to Charlton Athletic. The one change to the starting XI saw Harry Kite come in to replace Josh Key who was absent due to illness. Returning to the bench for the first time since the birth of his baby boy was Matt Jay.
A frantic start to the game saw Oxford have the first attempt on goal, Matty Taylor found himself baring down on goal but the calm and collected Alex Hartridge ushered him away to a more difficult angle and he sent the ball wide of the goal.
After a textbook Archie Collins corner, the ball made its way out to Hartridge on the far left, whose drilled cross went over the head of every player in the box eventually going out for a throw on the right-hand side. With 10 minutes played City were starting to find their feet in the game.
With the game starting to get going, Oxford were once again in the final third, this time Collins was the man defending, but his attempts to make the challenge resulted in a yellow card for the midfielder. From the resulting free kick, Oxford went one up courtesy of a fantastic free kick move from Cameron Brannagan. Branngan laid tthe ball off before receving it back, smahsing it low under the wall and past Blackman.
Half an hour in, City were still trying very much to get back into the game, but after what looked like a textbook sliding challenge from the captain Sweeney, the referee awarded a free kick and yellow card. Again, the same as the first goal, Oxfords second came from the resulting freekick. This time Blackman parried the shot, with the rebound being played Long who heased in, with more than just a hint of offside.
Nicho was soon forced into his first change of the game, captain Sweeney who earlier went down with a suspected injury clearly could not carry on, so 17-year-old Ed James was called upon to replace him for his league debut for the club.
Half time was fast approaching, so City were starting to commit more players forward and in doing so, Oxford were able hit them on the counterattack. Baring down on goal was Joseph, who weaved between multiple City players and slotted the ball under Blackman.
With the second half starting, Nicho needed something to change, so coming on to the pitch to replace Rekeem Harper was club captain Jay.
Jay's arrival did little to stem the flow, with seven minutes played of the second half when Oxford were 4-0 up. After being caught napping in midfield, Brannagan picked up the ball 30 yards out and eventually a ball into the box found an Oxford head. That header led to Blackman spilling the ball and the first to the spill was Joseph for his second of the game.
Moments later and The Grecians were on the attack for the first time in the second half, it was Nombe who found space in the Oxford penalty area, but his shot went wide of the goal.
City eventually got a goal back from the team’s top goal scorer Jevani Brown. On the swivel on the edge of the area, Brown received the ball from Jay and put it past Eastwood right in front of the Big Bank making it, albeit courtesy of a big deflection.
On an afternoon of disappointment, there was a positive note to end on as youth striker Sonny Cox grabbed his first professional goal. He rounded the keeper and rolled into an empty net, making the most of a defensive lapse - hopefully the first of many for City's no.19.
City: Blackman, Caprice, Kite (Chauke), Sweeney © (James), Hartridge, Harper (Jay), Collins, Brown, Nombe, Stansfield (Cox),
Subs not used: Brown, Dieng
Oxford United: Eastwood, Long, Findlay, Moore ©, Brannagan, Taylor (Anderson), Browne (Rodriguez), Brown, Henry (Bodin), McGuane, Joseph (Murphy)
Subs not used: McGinty, Baldock, Mousinho
Referee: Thomas Kirk
Attendance: 6926 (766 away)