Fourth-tier Oxford FC pull off fairytale win in Canterbury’s English Cup

posted in: News, Southern League

By Harrison Ryburn

Two years ago, Oxford FC were playing in the social divisions of Mainland Football, but on ANZAC Day, the club produced one of the greatest upsets in recent English Cup history with a stunning 1-0 victory over Southern League side FC Twenty 11.

Now playing in the Mainland Football Senior Men’s Division 1 (the fourth tier of Mainland Football), more than 20 places separate the two clubs on the Mainland Football pyramid, and even FC Twenty 11’s reserve side play in a higher league.

But the magic of cup football closed the gap between the sides.

A second-half strike from Nicolas Loevenich Melo proved enough for Oxford to steal victory at Avonhead Park and qualify Oxford for the Morrison Mitsubishi English Cup quarter-finals, sparking celebrations from head coach Jeroen Dunnink and his team.

Jeroen Dunnink … ‘I told my players how proud I was of them.’

“As soon as I heard the final whistle, I couldn’t believe what we had done,” Dunnink said.

“We celebrated the victory on the pitch, and I told my players how proud I was of them.”

Main photo: Cup giantkillers Oxford.

Not many would’ve given Oxford a chance against Southern League opposition, but Dunnink and his players always believed they could conjure an upset.

“We were definitely not scared of them, because we had nothing to lose,” he said. “We’ve been together as a squad for a little while now, and that makes us a strong, organised team.”

Oxford were the lowest-ranked side to enter the English Cup this season, and they celebrated 20 years as a club in 2024.

Their rise up the divisions in recent seasons has been nothing short of spectacular, and coach Dunnink has been there for a large chunk of it.

“Two years ago, we were in division 10, and we won that competition as well as division 8 all in the same season, but I realised we could still do better,” he explained.

This season, Oxford were supposed to be playing in the Senior Men’s Division 2, but were pushed up to Division 1 by Mainland Football after a position opened up.

Again they’ve proven themselves at a higher level, winning all of their first three Division 1 matches, and Oxford are currently co-leaders of the competition.

Oxford … division 3 champions in 2023.

The sky seems the limit at the moment, particularly after Thursday’s English Cup win, but Dunnink remains grounded.

“We would love to go higher and higher, but we also have to be realistic. The facilities in Oxford are not the same as in Christchurch or other Southern League teams,” he said.

Dunnink hoped the cup result would “open the eyes of the council” and encourage them to take a look at the football club and surrounding sports facilities in the area.

Meanwhile, confidence is running high for Oxford and their fairytale run will continue when they face another higher-ranked opponent in the English Cup quarter-finals.

Oxford were also eyeing another opportunity for cup success with their preliminary round tie in the Chatham Cup, against Waimakariri United at Kendal Park, on Sunday April 28.

Oxford’s cup squad

Augusto Soccol Frois, Rodrigo Balcazar, Jordan Phelan, Jeroen Dunnink, Sergio Cuevas, Andres Valencia, Nicolas Arratia, Cedric Schell, Jonathan Smoothy, Campbell Irvine, Carlos Larrañaga, Hamish Kilgour, Jesse Van Der Heyden, Ezequiel Fernandez, Pablo Cabral, Nicolás Loevenich.

Staff: Jeroen Dunnink (head coach), Carlos Larrañaga and Paul Dillon (assistant coaches).


Games played on Thursday April 25, 2024

English Cup

First round

FC Twenty 11 0
Oxford 1 (Nicolás Loevenich Melo)

Burwood 0
Ferrymead Bays 1 (own goal 40′)

Cashmere Technical 10 (Alex Ballard 22′, 43′, Yusuf Van Dam 38′, Gabriel Gallaway 41′, 64′, 69′, Finn Caughey 52′, 78′, Matt Tod-smith 69′, Lyle Matthysen 79)
St Albans Shirley 0

UC Football 0
Christchurch United 1 (Daniel Meyn 43′)

Selwyn United 1 (Luke Jerkovic 76′)
Nomads United 3 (Angus McIntyre 3′, 25′, Cooper Goldsmith 17′)

Coastal Spirit 3 (own goal 30′, Auston Kranick 56′, Apisai Rabuka 78′)
Waimakariri United 0

Halswell United 3 (Finn Steel 54′, Isaac Williams 67′, Conor Clarke 90+4′)
Western 3 (Calum Ross 6′, own goal 36′, Connor Brandon 88′)
*Western won 4-3 on penalties

Parklands United — Bye

Harrison Ryburn

Harrison Ryburn is a Canterbury-based football writer.

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