There was no cup upset in Surrey as Oxford United put five past tier seven side Merstham FC to book their place in the second round of the FA Cup.
Alex MacDonald opened the scoring just after ten minutes with a free kick that flew into the top corner, just out of reach for Merstham stopper Phil Wilson. Josh Ruffles doubled their lead before half time after his head connected with Marvin Johnson’s cross.
Things got harder for the home side on 63 minutes when Kane Hemmings found a way through their back line, slotting it home under Wilson’s arm. Their heads went down, letting Tyler Roberts score from a tight angle. Hemmings hammered the final nail in the coffin at the end of normal time, tapping home a rebound to make it 5-0.
The competition is known for its magic and giant killings, but it wasn’t to be for the Ryman Premier League side, who came closest when striker Dan Bennett turned the ball in from close range, but was offside.
The Moatsiders, to their credit, kept their philosophy of short, direct passing, headed up well by winger Alex Addai with his busts of pace on the wing.
Overall, manager Hayden Bird was happy with the performance: “They did very well and I’m glad other people agree with me that wasn’t a 5-0 match.” He was also grateful at Oxford’s “act of kindness”, giving their share of the ticket profits to the non-league club.
The U’s, who played a weakened side in this round, will be represented by ball number four in the round two draw, which will be made at 7pm on Monday night.
Player Ratings: Merstham
Phil Wilson: 6 A vocal member of the team, which was evident whenever Oxford were on the attack. He would’ve got to the free kick if he hadn’t taken a step to his left before;his positioning overall was a bit off.
Michael Abnett: 5.5 Kept his position but let Kane Hemmings through for the third, where he should have done better.
Marc-Anthony Okoye: 5.5 Didn’t see much action and was booked for a very late tackle half way through the first period.
Antone Douglas: 5.5 Could do with some work on his passing, which was evident late on.
Kristian Campbell: 6 Good busts of speed down the wing at times and overlapping well.
Alex Addai: 7.5 The best player on the pitch for Merstham. Kept making beautiful runs along the right flank with confidence to set up his teammates; he deserved a goal for his efforts. A player for the scouts to watch.
Tom Kavanagh: 5.5 Okay game form the club captain. Notable for his constant pressing.
Kershaney Samuels: 5 Not a standout performance, but he kept his position well. Substituted seven minutes into the second half.
Reece Hall: 5.5 Had the bravery to run at the Oxford line and if he lost the ball he would do his best to get it back. Shown a yellow card for a bad tackle just before he was substituted on 53 minutes.
Xavier Vidal: 6 Can’t fault his determination during the game, but his accuracy was a little off at some points.
Dan Bennet: 5.5 He got into good positions but didn’t have much luck in front of goal.
Subs: Folkes: 5 , Hector: 6.5 , Henriques: 6
Simon Eastwood: 6.5 Not much to do for the Oxford man between the sticks during the game, especially the first half. He made one major save four minutes from time, stretching his right leg out to keep a clean sheet. Composed throughout.
Liam Sercombe: 7 Did well to put pressure on the opposing player and still had energy to run deep into the second half.
Aaron Martin: 6.5 Stayed with the man and really put him under pressure.
Cheyenne Dunkley: 7.5 Some confident defending stopped Merstham from progressing, which was most evident when he slid in to deny Reece Hall a shot on goal in 45+1. Games
Marvin Johnson: 7.5 Some good work throughout the game. Picked out Joshua Ruffles’ run into the box and his cross set up the U’s second.
Tyler Roberts: 7 Well taken goal from a tight angle to make it 3-0. Had good upper body strength to disposes well. Substituted on 69 minutes.
Ryan Ledsom: 7.5 Wasn’t afraid to play a long ball into space, which he did well, and to shoot from distance.
Joshua Ruffels: 8 Good all round performance from the 23 year-old. The pace he had when he ran into the box to connect with Johnson’s cross was superb. My man of the match.
Alex MacDonald: 7.5 A strong game from the Scotsman, who was a menace in the Merstham box. His free kick early on was stunning; his booking for simulation soon after let him down.
Kane Hemmings: 7.5 Went the extra mile to follow up shots and score rebounds- he got his reward for that in the last minute of normal time. Composed when he slotted home under Wilson’s arm. Also a strong header.
Ryan Taylor: 6 A decent performance from Taylor. Had one really good opportunity to score, where he should’ve hit it first time.
Sub: Rothwell: 6