A RARE mistake from keeper Craig Hill paved the way for Oxford City to slip to a 2-1 defeat on the road at East Thurrock on Saturday.
After a goalless first half, the hosts took a 2-0 lead before Sammy Khawaja scored his first goal City to set up a tight finish.
With a weakened City side having crashed out of the Oxfordshire Senior Cup to North Leigh in midweek, boss Mark Jones recalled Hill, Matt Peake-Pijnen, Godfrey Poku, Jefferson Louis and Kaiman Anderson and gave a debut in midfield to Akin Abiola-Daramola.
Thanks to a fine display from Wilson Carvalho and a strong wind behind them, City had the better of the exchanges in the first half.
But their forwards appeared shot-shy and were unable to test the home keeper Lukas Lidakevicius.
The match turned on Thurrock’s opening goal in the 54th minute.
Hill received a seemingly routine backpass but dallied on the ball and was dispossessed by Femi Akinwande, leaving the striker with the simplest of finishes.
With 20 minutes remaining, City mustered their best effort of the game as an excellent Scott Davies corner found Lee Henderson, who glanced his header just wide.
City brought on two substitutes as Anderson made way for Ezra Forde and Stephane Ngamvoulou replaced the injured Louis.
Davies shot narrowly over the bar, before the hosts doubled their lead in the 81st minute.
Committing men forward, City were undone by a simple diagonal ball to the left wing. The resulting cross found Scott Heard, who placed his shot underneath Hill.
The goal should have killed City off, but they replied directly from kick-off.
Forde played a delightful ball into the path Khawaja. The youngster kept a cool head to slot past the onrushing Lidakevicius.
City had a golden chance to earn a point in injury time.
A corner gave Hill the opportunity to venture into the opposing box and his imposing frame caused havoc.
The loose ball fell to Khawaja on the edge of the six-yard box but, with the goal gaping, he scooped his shot wide.
Oxford City: Hill, Ngathe (Fleet 57), Peake-Pijnen, Davies, Henderson , Poku, Carvalho, Daramola, Louis (Ngamvoulou 77), Anderson (Forde 69), Khawaja. Sub not used: Tutton.