Banbury United Under 18's v Newcastle Town Juniors
By Del Randall
By Charlie Wilson
Banbury came into this match sitting in mid-table with just 1 point from their last 4 fixtures, whereas the opponents Newcastle Town found themselves in 4th place having scored 55 goals in 15 games while also maintaining one of the best defences in the league. Newcastle arrived in a chilly and overcast Banbury after an almost two-hour trip as perceived favourites, however United got the better of them in the reverse fixture which was sure to be fresh in their minds.
Right from the kick off Ryan Macdonald’s pace and runs in behind caused issues for the Newcastle backline, although neither side were able to forge any opportunities of note in the opening exchanges. The away sides captain and outstanding number 5 dealt with almost all that came his way especially Banbury’s attempts to find the forwards through long balls from the back. As the first half went on United managed to gain control of possession as the midfield trio of Sam Darke, Will Dee and Ali Caulder outshone Newcastle’s lethargic double pivot. Goalkeeper Charlie Barnett was extremely useful with his feet and always showed himself as an option to relieve pressure from the centre half pairing of Charlie Page and Harry Gardner. Newcastle’s main threat in the first half and throughout the entire game came down their left flank as their number 10 drifted over to accompany the left winger which continuously caused difficulties. While Newcastle looked threatening, they still failed to create chances as the number 9 was dropping deep in an attempt to link play but as a result could not make his presence known in the danger area when balls were coming in. The fluid movement of United’s attacking trident were probing the Newcastle back line, managing to get off a few shots that were blocked, but again were struggling to create clear cut chances. As the half drew to a close Newcastle carved out their first real opportunity. As the ball was carried through midfield towards Banbury’s goal the man in possession had time and space to pick out an out swinging ball into the penalty area finding the Newcastle forward who attempted an audacious flick from close range that was blocked with relative ease by a United defender. With minutes to go until the break United won a free kick in a dangerous area which was put over the bar by Macdonald, a second free kick was won within a matter of seconds, Banbury tried a little routine which was unsuccessful. As the referee blew the whistle to signal the break the score was 0-0, a fair reflection of the events thus far. Banbury were comfortably ahead on the number of shots and had made their possession count more so than the visitors.
After the second half kicked off Banbury threatened and won a corner for their efforts. Will Dee latched onto the quality delivery and despatched smartly into the bottom right with his head. As a result of going behind Newcastle picked up their game and began to take control of the proceedings yet again threatening down the left side, however the story of the first half continued and very few obvious chances were generated. A slight miscommunication between the Newcastle centre back pairing allowed United to get an effort from range away but it flew high and wide. Not long after the tenacious Sam Darke was replaced by Lewis Dear, the away side won a freekick in a central area which was struck with venom into the top of the wall, as the ball looped in the air towards United’s goal Newcastle’s number 6 found himself in space and equalised with an athletic overhead finish into the left side netting. With around 15 minutes to go, the initiative switched in United’s favour and they created two quality chances one of which Josh Wynne just couldn’t quite get out of his feet in time and the other Ryan Macdonald pulled wide after latching on to a bouncing ball which the Newcastle defenders failed to deal with. Soon after, Banbury got their noses in front after arguably the best move of the game which involved a quick exchange of one touch passes in the final third between Jack Fountain, Ryan Macdonald and Josh Wynne that carved open the defence that could do nothing but watch on as Macdonald slipped the ball in to Wynne who finished excellently into the top right corner. Wynne and his team mates were clearly elated as a pile on celebration ensued. The Newcastle players strolled back into position looking dejected. In the dying embers of the match Newcastle won a corner. The ball was swung in and the towering number 5 got his head to the ball and the goalkeeper could do very little as it cannoned of the underside of the crossbar and into the back of the net. The captain’s celebrations were measured and professional a reflection of his performance. It was a cruel way for the 3 points to slip through United’s fingers, however Ben Lovatt and his boys can be proud of themselves as they were the better side for most of the game and certainly created the better chances, against a team that are challenging for the league.