Banbury United 1 Hitchin Town 0
Banbury United grind out a 1-0 victory against form side Hitchin Town, despite going down to ten men.
Photo above of goal celebrations courtesy and copyright of Edwin Barson
Many thanks to our guest match reporter Nathaniel Kay for this report. He is a student on a football media course at Derby University
Unsurprisingly, Mike Ford kept the same eleven that grabbed victory late on against Stratford Town.
Hitchin Town began the encounter on the front foot, as Trey Charles troubled down the right channel, blazing a strike well wide followed by his deep cross that landed on top of Jack Hardings cross bar.
Banbury struggled to maintain any sizeable possession, constantly looking long with no success accompanied by the groans of a frustrated home crowd. Feelings almost turned even more sour as Jonny McNamara found space in the area to chest down and volley, taking a slight nick for a corner.
Chances continued all inside the opening ten minutes for the away side, Josh Bickerstaff finding the ball at his feet six yards out, only to hit straight at Harding with a poor connection.
A sluggish start gradually picked up for the Puritans as they made headway in the Hitchin half. Elliot Sandy’s cross eluded both defenders and the goal for the first half chance for Banbury.
Tom Winters sparked the game to life, driving at the backline, forced slightly wider than he’d hoped and saw his left footed strike take a deflection to go out for a corner.
The cagey affair continued as Banbury stood stubborn at the back to deny a wave of a pressure from the away side, yet were wasteful in attack with poor final delivery.
It fell to Elliot Sandy for the golden opportunity of the half, Ricky Johnson flicking the ball on to his strike partner, who could only flash his volley inches wide of the post. A difficult technique to execute with the ball in mid-air, however still a great chance none the less.
Banbury all but nullified the Hitchin threat, other than danger man McNamara’s low cross that flashed across the box without a definitive touch.
There couldn’t have been a better possible start for the Puritans, within a minute of the restart substitute Leam Howards turned his man brillianty, conjured a wicked cross to find Johnson who struck his name sake Johnson in goal only to fall at the feet of Jack Self, who in turn swivelled and found the bottom corner.
Mike Ford got his tactics spot on, moving Howards central to provide a greater pace and drive that was lacking throughout the first half. And it was that man again, rushing through on goal yet was unable to beat Johnson, striking straight at the keeper.
A transformed Banbury side were relentless going forward, this time Self set Conor McDonagh on his way with an inch perfect pass although Johnson again denied a second, smothering the attempted lob.
While Hitchin had lost all impetus from the first 45, the Puritans had an air of confidence and drive unseen in the opening exchanges. This could’ve changed completely however, as hero turned to villain in the form of Howard as he was shown a straight red card by referee Matthew Law for a foul on Ben Walster.
Inevitably, the final 20 minutes were a cagey affair as Hitchin strained for a breakthrough. Walster’s whipped delivery missed anyone in green or red.
Elliot Bailey managed to find a rare gap between centre backs Charlie Wise and George Nash, attempting a clever chipped finish that only narrowly missed the top corner.
Its easy to sit back with everyone behind the ball after loosing a man, yet to all Banbury’s credit they continued to surge forward with numbers to try and double their advantage. Jordy Ngathe and sub Sam Humphreys exchanged a swift set of passes to free the marauding right back who let loose a low drive which Johnson pushed round his post.
Hearts where in mouths for the final minutes as Luke Carnell inadvertently headed the ball towards his own goal yet had Harding to thank as he pulled off a fine save low to his right and even held onto the ball to complete a moment of magic goal keeping.
As the final whistle blew, a sigh of relief rang around the Spencer Stadium after hard earned three points, taking them two points behind their opposition today.
Banbury United: Jack Harding, Jordy Ngathe, Charlie Hawtin, George Nash, Luke Carnell, Jack Self, Elliot Sandy (Leam Howards 45), Ricky Johnson, Conor McDonagh (Ryan Macdonald 89), Tom Winters (Sam Humphreys 76). Unused subs: Matt Peake-Pijnen, Graham Bryan.
Hitchin Town: Michael Johnson, Kavan Cotter, Toby Syme (Ben Walster 66), Jay Dowie, Dan Webb, Josh Bickerstaff, Lucas Kirkpatrick, Elliot Bailey, Brett Donnelly (Robbie Burns 60), Jonny McNamara, Trey Charles (Josh Coley 77). Unused subs: Kevin Byrne, Patrick Tshikala.
Ref: Matthew Law