The Rebels travelled to Oxford off the back of a 6-2 cup win against Crowborough Athletic in midweek. After falling two goals behind, the Reds scored six in 35 minutes, including four goals from Ibby Akanbi to secure their spot in the final four of the Sussex Senior Cup.
The hosts meanwhile have been on a fine run of form – undefeated in 2023 so far, with six wins in their eight games since the turn of the year. A run that has seen the Hoops climb to fourth in the league table.
Adam Hinshelwood’s squad was boosted with the return of young defender Joe Rye. He slotted into the back line in a fluid system.
Mo Dabre made his first league start since returning on loan, while Ibby Akanbi was rewarded for his performance in midweek with a place in the starting line-up at Court Place Farm.
The first chance went the way of the hosts after Kane Wills brought down Lewis Coyle on the edge of the area. Josh Ashby hit the target from the set piece but Harrison Make made a strong diving save.
The Rebels were made to weather an early storm against the in form Hoops. There were chances for Klaidi Lolos, Aaron Williams-Bushell and Canice Carroll all inside the first 15 minutes But Rye and Male were able to clear the danger on separate occasions.
Reece Fleet was the next man to threaten, and he did so twice in five minutes. First with a looping volley following a corner from outside the box which landed on top of the net. Then Zac McEachran fed him through, but the Hoops’ skipper missed the target.
The Rebels worked their way into the contest and began having more joy controlling possession before the half-hour mark but weren’t posing any threat to Adnan Kanuric in the Oxford City goal.
On 34 minutes the hosts had a penalty appeal waved away when Lolos went down in the area while battling for possession with Joel Colbran.
The Rebels, no doubt, were hoping to go into the break level after a disappointing first half having failed to register a shot on target. But the first half ended in the worst possible way for the Reds when Lewis Miccio volleyed the hosts in front following a well-worked free-kick.
Hinshelwood made his first change at the interval, replacing the tenacious Dabre with Reece Meekums.
The Hoops threatened early in the second half when Josh Parker forced a strong save from Male, diving to his left.
But the Reds showed plenty of signs of improvement in the first quarter of an hour of the second period. First, Ollie Pearce delivered a threatening low cross into Akanbi who was challenged as he shot and the ball spun away from goal.
Next, it was Rodari through on goal but Miccio recovered to make an excellent sliding block.
Up the other end, Parker thought he had doubled the advantage when he slotted past Male, no sooner than his celebrations had begun, he noticed the linesman’s flag was raised for offside.
McEachran fired from distance a minute later but as his strike travelled towards goal, Male looked untroubled and watched it fly over the crossbar.
With 20 minutes to go, Lewis White played a low cross into Rodari. The forward scuffed his left-footed shot and watch it roll agonisingly wide of the far post.
Liam Vincent was brought on straight after, replacing Akanbi.
Danny Barker was dispossessed by Parker in his own penalty box on 73 minutes and, while battling to win back possession, was adjudged to have brought down the forward as the referee pointed to the spot.
Parker stepped up and scored, sending Male the wrong way and doubling the Hoops’ advantage.
The home side remained in the ascendancy and Fleet had the chance to make it three when Lolos gifted him a glorious opportunity but the midfielder fired over.
Two minutes later, the Hoops did get their third as McEachran slotted home in comfortable fashion.
A positive for the Reds was that young Finlay Chadwick was handed his league debut with some five minutes to go.
Oxford City continued their fine run of form with the win while leaving the Rebels with an unwanted run of three consecutive league defeats, dropping one position in the table, to sixth.
The Reds are back under the lights at Woodside on Tuesday as they welcome Dulwich Hamlet to the South Coast.