OXFORD City interim manager Andy Ballard says FA Cup first round places will be up for grabs when they take on Tonbridge Angels tomorrow.

Back-to-back victories against Slough Town and Dorking Wanderers have propelled City away from the relegation zone and they are aiming to make it three wins in a row in Vanarama National League South.

Ballard has been delighted with the side’s resurgence since he became joint boss with Justin Merritt and challenged his players for next Saturday’s Cup visit of Solihull Moors.

He said: “We’ve got that bit of belief back, but it certainly hasn’t cracked anything yet.

“You often see it when there is a managerial change that players have a point to prove, and they do to a certain extent, especially with the FA Cup first round tie coming next week.”

Ballard held team meetings to clear the air after Mark Jones’s departure and he believes that helps explain City’s upturn in form.

He said: “We told all the players that it was a blank canvas and that they all had the opportunity to get themselves back in the reckoning, and they have responded magnificently.”

One of the keys to City’s return to form has been Nana Owusu, who has begun to find the net on regular occasions after a difficult start to the season.

Ballard said: “Nana has really started to come into form and is scoring goals.

“He had a tough start and went out of favour a bit, but we have persevered with him, and now he’s really flourishing.

“His work rate and end product has been different class, and he’s an important player for us.”

Ballard also singled out young Craig Fasanmade for praise after the striker arranged personal coaching in a bid to improve his goal ratio.

He added: “Craig is a talented young player, but he was struggling a bit in front of goal.

“He took it upon himself to sort the coaching to help his finishing, so that is testament to the work he is putting in.”

Reece Beckles-Richards has been recalled by parent club Wealdstone, and so Fasanmade, or fit-again Stefan Brown, could start a game that Ballard feels is crucial.

He said: “We will have to play well to get anything from Tonbridge. We need to string some results together, and Tonbridge have picked up some good results, despite their position.

“The boys know they all have an opportunity to make the starting XI for the FA Cup, but as a management team, we are not thinking too far ahead. We can look to build towards that after the weekend.”


Oxford City (v Tonbridge Angels, away): from King, Jones, Jefford, Ashby, Oastler, Fleet, Brown, Moore-Azille, McEachran, Owusu, Self, Wiltshire, Tapp, Wright, Benyon, Fasanmade, Rowe.