There’s no such thing as an easy game in the National League South and, even though the Clarets saw off leaders Ebbsfleet in the week, they were faced with second-placed Oxford City and struggled to cope all afternoon.
The Clarets managed to just about hold their own in the first-half, restricting Oxford to some off-target efforts, but they struggled to mount many attacks of their own, and eventually found themselves 1-0 down thanks to a Bradley Bubb penalty.
An onslaught then followed from the spot-kick, conceded by Rob Girdlestone after felling Kynan Isaac, with Isaac confirming the points with a well-placed finish 16 minutes from time. Luke Coulson added to the score-line when he struck in the 80th minute, extending their unbeaten run to seven matches, while Julen Lafuente tucked home the fourth late on.
Following Chelmsford’s dramatic 2-1 win over the Fleet in the FA Cup, boss Mark Hawkes looked to freshen things up, making four changes as Aiden Palmer, Mark Haines, Hugo Skepelhorn and debutant Sean Shields came in for Harry Morgan, Marvel Ekpiteta, Charlie Henry and Luke Daley.
Bagasan Graham, who gave an excellent account of himself on Tuesday, was straight into the action with a couple of lung-busting runs down the left-wing early on. A feature of the Clarets’ game recently has been their pace going forward, with frontman Tomi Adeloye showing great promise in his starts for the side and dropping deep to spread the play into the wide areas.
It was the former Stoke City youngster that had the host’s first two chances, with both coming from set-pieces. The first was hit narrowly over before the second effort from close range curled just wide. A good chance for Oxford to score came in between those opportunities, but they failed to take advantage of the counter attack with Darren Pond blasting wide.
Oxford then slowly grew into the game – the Clarets had to block two Bradley Bubb efforts in quick succession – but they struggled to test Christian Dibble in the City goal.
Skipper Pond did have a good chance to test the gloves of the Barnsley loanee though, but he dragged his shot disappointingly wide.
Manager Hawkes wouldn’t have been happy with the frequency in which is side were conceding possession on the wings as the Clarets struggled to deal with the pace of Bubb, Coulson and Pond.
But what the Clarets did possess was some pace of their own, although they were forced to bring off Skepelhorn after he suffered a cut to the head. Henry was his replacement, operating as a traditional number ten behind Adeloye.
That change didn’t quite push City on, and Melbourne Stadium fell silent when Bubb, who scored a halfway-line wonder goal against the Clarets on the opening day of the season, rushed through on goal, but he fired wide when he ought to have hit the target.
The closing stages of the first-half were tetchy and tentative, with not a lot separating the two sides, although Oxford had the final say of the half. Jose Lapoujade connected sweetly with Ander De Alamo’s whipped free-kick, forcing Dibble into a low and uncomfortable save. What the Clarets perhaps lacked was a bit of muscle up front, although Adeloye did well against two strong centre-halves.
So with nothing separating the two sides going into the break, it was all to play for after the interval.
It was Oxford who seized the initiative five minutes after the restart when Rob Girdlestone was punished for tripping Isaac in the area. Bubb then stepped up to fire home his seventh goal of the season, sending Dibble the wrong way from the spot.
The City ‘keeper then had to be on hand again to tip Reece Fleet’s diving header around the post as the hosts were put on the back foot.
Chelmsford looked for some extra impetus – midfielder Harry Morgan replaced centre-back Mark Haines in an attempt to give City some more attacking threat – but the Clarets still struggled to test Laurie Walker in the goal.
Oxford protected their lead intelligently, holding the ball up well in the right areas and throwing men forward where necessary.
A few fouls from the hosts broke the game down somewhat – frustrations were shown after some Oxford discrepancies went unpunished – and the Clarets couldn’t threaten.
They were eventually punished again after 74 minutes when a delightful flick from substitute Omari Sterling-James released Isaac through on goal, and he coolly slotted home past Dibble to wrap up the points. That was to be Isaac’s last contribution as he was forced off injured following his tidy finish.
Oxford weren’t finished there though as the floodgates opened, with them adding a third ten minutes from time through Luke Coulson's finish from close-range following a clever turn in the box.
Julen Lafuente concluded the rout with a fourth after springing the offside trap to tap into the empty net with Dibble rushing on.
The Clarets couldn’t find the extra boost and were well beaten by Oxford, and they will be bitterly disappointed with this result, their second straight league defeat.
1. Christian Dibble
2. Rob Girdlestone
3. Aiden Palmer
4. Mark Hughes (C)
5. Marvin Ekpiteta
6. Rory McAuley
7. Sean Shields
8. Mark Haines
9. Hugo Skepelhorn
10. Tomi Adeloye
11. Bagasan Graham
12. Harry Morgan (On for Mark Haines, 61’)
14. Charlie Henry (On for Hugo Skepelhorn, 33’)
15. Marvel Ekpiteta (On for Rob Girdlestone, 69’)
16. Jonah Gosling
18. Lee Sawyer
1. Laurie Walker
2. David King
3. Jose Lapoujade
4. Ander De Alamo
5. Adrian Santiago
6. Jon Arzamendi
7. Luke Coulson
8. Reece Fleet
9. Bradley Bubb
10. Darren Pond (C)
11. Kynan Isaac
12. Connor McDonagh
14. Omari Sterling-James (On for Bradley Bubb, 65’)
15. Declan Benjamin
16. Julen Lafuente (On for Kynan Isaac, 76’)
17. Carlos Piffare (On for Darren Pond, 80')
Referee: Mr. Steven Plane
Assistance Referees: Mr. Callum Walchester and Mr. Darin Geary
Bookings: Chelmsford City: Marvin Ekpiteta (20’, cynical foul), Charlie Henry (58’, foul), Harry Morgan (69’, foul), Rory McAuley (83’, dissent)
Oxford City: None
Scorers: Chelmsford City: None
Oxford City: Bradley Bubb (50’, penalty), Kynan Isaac (74’), Luke Coulson (80’), Julen Lafuente (83’)
HT score: 0-0
FT score: 0-4
City Man of the Match: Rory McAuley