Halesowen Town 2-0 Banbury United
By Steve T
More disappointment for The Puritans
Having surrendered an eight match unbeaten run at Stratford on Boxing Day, Banbury never looked liked starting a new one at Halesowen and slipped to a disappointing defeat against a side in the relegation zone.
Banbury fielded an unchanged starting XI for the fourth successive game but it was hard to believe this was the same team who had beaten Kettering a fortnight ago.
There were few chances in an untidy first half. Halesowen had made a number of changes to their squad in the previous few days but the lurking threat of front man Lee Hughes remained. He was involved in their best two opportunities, getting on the end of a deep cross from the right which Manny Agboola saved and then supplying a similar ball into the box which Agboola palmed away. Banbury could not get their passing game together and a couple of headers that were comfortably dealt with was all they had to muster.
The game turned early in the second half. On 48 minutes, from a quickly taken throw-in on the right, Halesowen worked the ball too easily to Dan Sweeney who took it on his chest and then flicked it over George Nash before volleying past Agboola. Great skill but with tighter attention it might have been prevented.
Four minutes later it was 2-0. Banbury lost possession on the right and although the subsequent through ball did not look dangerous, confusion between Johnson and Agboola allowed Sweeney to steal in and cross for Hughes to fire home for the home team's second from very close range.
Banbury tried to get back into the game but the home team's defence stood resolute. You sensed that one goal would have left the home team jittery but it wouldn't come despite the promptings of Greg Kaziboni. A move with Matt Taylor saw the left back flattened in the penalty area but calls for a spot kick were waved away. Ricky Johnson was moved up front but this did not make any significant difference. He and sub Mark Bell dug out a chance for the latter but the final shot went inches over the bar.
At full time it was the home team deservedly celebrating a first win for twelve matches but for the Banbury fans, who travelled in good numbers, a disappointing end to the footballing year.
Halesowen: 1. Dan Platt, 2. Matt Curley, 3. Jack Kelly, 4. Joe Fitzpatrick, 5. Kieran Moss, 6. Dan Bragoli, 7. Mathias Bakare (Sub 14. Henry Higginson, 85'), 8. Jake Read, 9. Lee Hughes (Sub 12. Ivor Lawton, 65'), 10. Joel Taylor, 11. Dan Sweeney.
Subs not used: 15. Joab Wheatley, 16. Kieran Wheatley, 17. Aaron Gilpin.
Banbury: 1. Emmanuel Agboola, 3. Matt Taylor, 4. George Nash, 5. Charlie Wise, 6. Ravi Shamsi (Sub 17. Harry Whitehead, 65'), 9. Ricky Johnson, 10. Steve Diggin, 13. Amer Awadh (Sub 11. Mark Bell, 55'), 15. Eddie Odhiambo (Sub 8. Edmund Hottor, 75'), 16. Greg Kaziboni, 18. Giorgio Rasulo.
Subs not used: 2. Darius Browne 19. Ryan Macdonald
Attendance – 402